On December 13, 2017, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s board of directors approved a cultural conservation easement with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band over 36 acres atop Mount Umunhum in Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve.
The easement grants the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, made up of descendants of indigenous people taken to Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz, permanent rights to help steward the mountaintop for natural resource conservation, cultural relearning and public education in partnership with Midpen. Mount Umunhum is a sacred site to the Amah Mutsun people and is central to their creation story.
In exchange for the benefits to the Tribe under the easement, the Tribe will provide significant volunteer educational, cultural and natural resource advising services to the District and the public, as well as the more general public benefits of deepening the region’s understanding of Native American human history on Mount Umunhum and surrounding areas.
Tribal activities will be coordinated with Midpen and may include the creation of a native plant garden, use of indigenous plant management techniques, tribal ceremonies and public education. The easement prohibits developing new or existing or buildings for commercial purposes, including expanding or occupying the radar tower. It does not affect existing recreation at Mount Umunhum, nor does it inhibit any future expanded open space recreational uses and improvements or public access.
Conservation easements are commonly used by Midpen and other organizations as a tool for protecting and managing natural open spaces. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band also partners with many other regional public agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions including Pinnacles National Park, California State Parks, Sempervirens Fund and the University of California.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who are the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band?
- What is a conservation easement?
- Why did Midpen grant a conservation easement to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band?
- What does the conservation easement mean for Mount Umunhum?
- What does the conservation easement mean for the public?
- What does proposed conservation easement mean for the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band?
- When will the conservation easement be put in place?
The nearly 600 members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band are descendants of Native Americans who lived in Central California between the Monterey Bay and the San Benito and Pajaro Rivers for thousands of years. Their traditional way of life ended with the arrival of the Spanish and their missions in the late 1700s, and later Mexican and European settlers. Today, the Amah Mutsun are working to heal from the loss of many of their people and much of their culture over the last 200 years by reconnecting with their ancestral lands and heritage. These efforts include practicing and publicly sharing their cultural traditions, knowledge, and land stewardship techniques. The Amah Mutsun have partnerships with many regional agencies and organizations including Pinnacles National Park, California State Parks, Sempervirens Fund and the University of California.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement tailored to protect the natural resources on a specific piece of land. This is done by conveying some of the land owner’s rights or by permanently restricting specific uses or development of the land. Conservation easements are commonly used by Midpen and other organizations as a tool for protecting and managing natural open spaces. The proposed easement at Mount Umunhum is a cultural conservation easement, meaning it has a special emphasis on protecting the land's cultural resources.
During the restoration and opening of Mount Umunhum, Midpen learned that the mountaintop has been sacred to the Amah Mutsun people for thousands of years and is central to their creation story. The easement is an opportunity to grant permanent rights to the Tribe, allowing them to work in formal partnership with Midpen to further our similar missions of natural restoration, preservation and public education.
Existing public access and recreational opportunities remain unaltered. The conservation easement would help protect cultural, natural, scenic and open space values over 36 acres at Mount Umunhum’s summit. It prohibits the development of existing or new buildings for commercial purposes, including expanding or occupying the radar tower.
The conservation easement will enhance visitors’ experiences at Mount Umunhum through the direct sharing of the Amah Mutsun’s culture, traditional ecological knowledge and stewardship practices. Activities may include the creation of a native plant demonstration garden, use of indigenous plant management techniques, viewing of tribal ceremonies and other educational public activities and events.
The conservation easement formally allows the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band permanent rights to reconnect with and steward a site that is sacred to their people in partnership with Midpen. Their approved hands-on activities will enhance natural resource conservation and public education at Mount Umunhum while reviving their cultural heritage.
Midpen entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band on December 13, 2017 allowing them to begin implementing authorized activities identified in the conservation easement in a way that is compatible with Midpen’s policies and environmental restoration and public access at Mount Umunhum.