Alleged Habitat Destruction on Gaviota Coast
Photo Courtesy of Gaviota Coast Conservancy
Source: Gaviota Coast Conservancy
During the week of January 13, 2020, approximately 300 acres of Santa Barbara Ranch, aka Naples, were illegally disked, destroying habitat and impairing public access to the ocean. The disking occurred right before a significant predicted storm, increasing erosion and sediment in runoff into the Naples Marine Protected Area. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy has filed a complaint with the Santa Barbara County planning department and the Coastal Commission.
Permits are required for the disking, but none were obtained. “The County requires permits before undertaking this kind of activity, which represents a change in use from what has occurred over the past 20 years on this site. None of the agricultural exemptions apply when the new practice reflects a change from grazing to cultivated agriculture” explained GCC counsel Marc Chytilo.
Disking, which involves cutting 6-12” into and turning over the top layer of soil, has not been practiced on this site for at least 2 decades. Guner Tautrim, a 6th generation Gaviota Coast farmer and member of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board of Directors added: “Major earthwork before a storm is a reckless agricultural practice, regardless of the need for permits. These lands have been highly productive pasture lands for generations, going back to the time when a dairy operated on the site. Grazing is impossible now, and a change to cultivated agriculture doesn’t make sense due to limited water supplies.”
Although the 2008 preliminary approvals for subdivision of Santa Barbara Ranch have expired, two lots have applications for development pending at the County. “This wanton destruction of resources and impairment of public access is inconsistent with the development applications that are pending on some of Santa Barbara Ranch. The lands need to be restored and the public’s access protected” stated Gaviota Coast Conservancy’s Executive Director Doug Kern.
Other landowners that willfully destroyed habitat on the Gaviota Coast have been subject to enforcement actions, most notably the illegal grading on the Coho-Jalama Ranch, aka Bixby Ranch, in 2011. GCC notified officials of those violations, which led in 2017 to significant penalties and a Coastal Commission restoration order that was finalized shortly before the developers sold the 24,500 acre ranch to The Nature Conservancy for preservation.