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What’s at Stake for Sargent Ranch/Juristac

Tuesday, December 04, 2018
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Event Type:
Protect Juristac
Location Details:
Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center
17000 Monterey St, Morgan Hill

Join us for an evening to learn about What’s at Stake for Sargent Ranch/Juristac. Covering 6,500 acres of hills, wetlands, creeks and meadows, this area is home to numerous habitats and native species. Valentin Lopez, Chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, will speak about the historical, spiritual and cultural importance of Juristac. Legislative Advocacy Director Alice Kaufman will speak about the sand and gravel quarry that’s proposed for the Juristac site, including the environmental concerns, the timeline and how you can help with our advocacy.

Please RSVP Here:

The Importance of Sargent Ranch

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band know it as Juristac, a sacred place where healing ceremonies and dances took place for centuries. The public knows it as Sargent Ranch, 6,500 acres of nearly pristine open space at the tail end of the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the foothills slope down towards the broad agricultural fields south of Gilroy. To the Debt Acquisition Company of America (DACA), the property’s owner, it is a potential sand and gravel quarry.

Committee for Green Foothills has a decades-long history of fighting for Sargent Ranch, and our commitment to preserving this culturally and ecologically unique site has not wavered. The land includes serpentine grasslands, oak savannah, sycamore riparian woodlands, and a unique natural tar spring. It’s home to threatened and endangered species such as steelhead trout, California red-legged frogs, and California tiger salamanders. Sargent Ranch is also a critical wildlife route, linking the Santa Cruz Mountains with the Diablo Range to the east and the Gabilan Range to the south. Together with Coyote Valley, 25 miles to the north, it is the only viable path for wildlife to migrate into and out of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The native Amah Mutsun ceremonies here were often attended by other tribal groups in the region. Juristac’s nearly pristine state, amidst so many irreparably altered Amah Mutsun living and gathering places, makes it practically unique in its importance and in the urgency of its preservation.

Committee for Green Foothills has opposed Sargent Ranch development proposals since 1993, including a plan to build four “villages” of over 12,000 residents, a proposal for two golf courses, and a luxury residential development. Along with other environmental groups, we have fought to stop the urban development floodgates from opening on Santa Clara County ranchlands. Several years later, the owner of Sargent Ranch declared bankruptcy, and the land was acquired by creditors, including DACA.

Newest Threat: A Quarry Proposal

DACA has applied for a permit to operate a sand and gravel quarry on Sargent Ranch. The proposed quarry would cover over 300 acres of hillsides and grasslands and excavate about 40 million tons of sand and gravel over its 30-year life. Where there are currently grassy hillsides and oak savannah, there would instead be 200-foot-deep quarry pits, a 14-acre processing plant, piles of “waste” rocks and dirt, a 1.6-mile-long conveyor belt to transport the quarried material, new roads for trucks, and a bridge over Tar Springs Creek. Operators would pump about 86,000 gallons of groundwater every day to work the processing plant and control quarry dust. The noise, lights, roads, fences, and disruption of the landscape could negatively affect wildlife migration, and erosion and runoff from quarry operations, roads, and waste piles could contaminate both Sargent Creek and Tar Springs Creek.

In addition to the likely environmental damage, the potential for cultural damage for the Amah Mutsun is unparalleled. Destruction of this ancient landscape is a disruption of the spiritual integrity of the land, something impossible to quantify or mitigate. It should be unthinkable to destroy even a small portion of an Amah Mutsun sacred site for any reason, let alone in order to obtain and process sand and gravel, easily available at other sites.

Conservation and land trust organizations have expressed interest in acquiring and preserving Sargent Ranch. However, DACA has refused to sell the property, preferring to pursue the proposed quarry operation. Committee for Green Foothills continues to work with partners to achieve open space protection for the entire 6,500-acre property.

What We Are Doing and How You Can Help

Santa Clara County is expected to release the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Sargent Ranch quarry proposal soon. Committee for Green Foothills will submit comments on the DEIR and work to bring the importance of this issue to the attention of county decisionmakers. Please help us by signing up for our email notifications, so that you’ll know when you can submit comments to the County or attend meetings to show support for preserving this unique landscape.
Added to the calendar on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 1:01AM
§Visual overview of Juristac and its natural surroundings
by Protect Juristac
Photo by Derek Neumann, used with permission.

More photos, courtesy the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, at:
§Lower Sargent Valley in late summer
by Protect Juristac
More photos, courtesy the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, at:
by Protect Juristac
More photos, courtesy the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, at:
§Existing Quarry Adjacent to Sargent Ranch
by Protect Juristac
Existing quarry adjacent to the Sargent Ranch property, operated by Graniterock

More photos, courtesy the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, at:
§Burrowing Owl
by Protect Juristac
Burrowing Owl (photo: M. Damiani‎)

About Juristac

Juristac (Huris-tak) lies at the heart of the ancestral lands of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band near Gilroy, California. For thousands of years, our Mutsun ancestors lived and held sacred ceremonies at this location in the southern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, above the confluence of the Pajaro and San Benito rivers.

The cultural landscape encompassing Juristac is known today as the Sargent Ranch. An investor group based in San Diego purchased the land at a bankruptcy auction and is currently seeking to develop a 320-acre open pit sand and gravel mining operation on the property.

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band vehemently opposes the proposed mining project. We are asking the public to join us in standing for the protection of our sacred grounds.
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