Cemex Nat'l Monument Plans On Ice

Read on if you like Sempervirens Fund, Big Creek Lumber, Cemex, Coast Dairies, national monument, timber harvesting and Bureau of Land Management.

by Traci Hukill

Dec. 16, 2013—The executive director of Sempervirens Fund, part of a group informally exploring national monument designation for the 8,500-acre Cemex property, says the idea is off the table, at least for now—and if it returns, it will be with the understanding that selective logging will be allowed to continue on the property.

Reiterating his commitment to a conservation plan, drawn up by Sempervirens and the other four buyers of the $30 million property, that requires 35 percent of the acreage to remain in timber production, Reed Holderman says the first step in the designation process—selling the land to the federal government—would have to meet the terms of that conservation plan.

"We won't sell unless the deal includes a large working forest component," Holderman says. "Period."

Holderman's comments came the day after a Sentinel opinion piece by Big Creek Lumber President Janet McCrary Webb voiced concern that national monument status would end logging on the Cemex land. Big Creek manages the selective timber harvest for the Cemex property.

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In a closely related development, the Sentinel yesterday announced that the Coast Dairies property is being considered for national monument status. The 7,000-acre former dairy ranch surrounds the town of Davenport, lying between Wilder Ranch State Park and the Cemex property; the 400-odd acres that lie between Highway 1 and the sea were conveyed to California State Parks in 2006 to become Coast Dairies State Park, which includes Panther Beach, Laguna Beach, Bonny Doon Beach and four other "pocket beaches." The vast majority of the Coast Dairies property got tangled up in lawsuits but should finally be conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management in early 2014.

The conveyance will set the stage for Coast Dairies to be named a national monument, should President Obama elect to do so. National monuments, unlike national parks, can be created by presidential fiat. They are desired by conservationists because they bring federal dollars to local efforts, freeing up resources for other campaigns. Once a Coast Dairies national monument is established, it wouldn't be a stretch to expand it to the neighboring Cemex property.

Holderman says the president's powers to determine the conditions surrounding a new national monument appear to be far-reaching. "From what I could tell, there's nothing that precludes the president from saying, 'I'm signing the order making this a national monument and it's subject to the conservation plan.'"

If true, that would spell good news for backers of a Cemex monument, because the president could order that the working forest stipulation be continued, something Holderman insists would be an absolute precondition to any deal. When reminded that the folks at Big Creek remain skeptical of this, Holderman laughs. "Do I have to swear on a stack of bibles? I don't know what else to say!"

Describing a Coast Dairies candidacy for national monumenthood as "low-hanging fruit," Holderman indicates that while backers of a national monument campaign for the Cemex lands are pulling the deal off the table for now, it may very well reappear. "Sometimes the prudent thing, when there’s a lot of worry and fear, is to take a step back. We are. We’re pulling that off the table and saying, 'Let’s just do Coast Dairies, OK?' Not create more complexities until the dust has settled."