On Tuesday the Santa Clara City Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging county officials to deny permits for an open-pit mine at Juristac on land that is sacred to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and critical for wildlife migration.
“With this action, the City of Santa Clara has taken a step to address the historical injustice done to Indigenous peoples,” said Sudhanshu Jain, the City Councilmember who sponsored the resolution. The City of Santa Clara’s action follows similar resolutions passed by the cities of Morgan Hill and Santa Cruz in 2020. These resolutions send a strong message to the County that local communities widely oppose the desecration of the sacred site.
Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, commended the Santa Clara City Council for their leadership in addressing threats to the sacred lands of local Indigenous peoples. “We appreciate the recognition by the city council of Santa Clara that the rights of Indigenous peoples matter, and that the destruction of the sacred Amah Mutsun site of Juristac is a significant issue for the entire region.”
In spoken and written public comments prior to the Santa Clara council decision, support for the resolution was expressed by local Santa Clara residents and speakers from the American Civil Liberties Union and Green Foothills as well as a faculty representative from Santa Clara University. This resolution by the City of Santa Clara also follows on the heels of a 2020 letter in support of protecting Juristac that was signed by 369 affiliates of Santa Clara University.
County Soon to Release Environmental Study of Mine
The resolution by the Santa Clara City Council comes at a critical time. Santa Clara County is expected to release its study of the environmental and cultural impacts of the proposed mine within the next few weeks. Upon release of the environmental impact report, a 60-day public comment period will be initiated.
According to documents filed with the County of Santa Clara, the proposed open-pit sand and gravel mine would operate for 30 years, excavating four pits hundreds of feet deep in the hillsides of Juristac, and requiring hundreds of heavy truck trips per day on Highway 101 to transport the sand and gravel.
Juristac is one of the Bay Area’s most important regions for wildlife and is considered to be a top conservation priority by tribal and environmental leaders. In every wildlife connectivity study of the region, Juristac is highlighted as one of the most critical wildlife linkages in the Bay Area and a top conservation priority for the region and the state. Together with Coyote Valley, 25 miles to the north, Juristac is one of only two undeveloped pathways for wildlife to migrate into and out of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
“The County has the opportunity to respect our spirituality and deny this project,” Chair Lopez said. “We are relying on the County to do the right thing.”
Photo (at top of page): Tribal members and students hold signs at Morgan Hill City Hall in support of a resolution to protect Juristac, January 2020