Note: The board of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Conservation, Recreation and Conservation District is set to make discuss this matter at a special meeting Thursday evening. Details here.

Press release from Friends of the Dunes:

Friends of the Dunes has developed an agreement with the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, the current landowner (Security National), and multiple funding agencies to work cooperatively to transfer the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands to conservation ownership. The Samoa Dunes and Wetlands is a 357-acre coastal dune and bayfront property that includes the former Dog Ranch.

“This is a historic opportunity to conserve a remarkable and rare coastal dune forest, windswept open dunes, and diverse native dune habitat,” said Mike Cipra, Executive Director of Friends of the Dunes. “We realized that this conservation opportunity for our community might not happen unless a qualified organization stepped forward to accept the responsibility of owning and managing this land in the mid-term.”

Under the terms of the agreement, which has already been approved by the Friends of the Dunes Board of Directors and will be voted on at this week’s Harbor District Board of Commissioners meeting, the Harbor District would continue to advance the conservation acquisition of the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands property, with funding support provided by the California State Coastal Conservancy, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the California Wildlife Conservation Board. At the close of escrow, the property would be transferred to Friends of the Dunes for interim management.

“On behalf of the Harbor District, we are pleased to participate in securing ongoing public access and enjoyment of this ecologically important property. We thank the Friends of the Dunes for their willingness to act as an intermediary owner and manager, and the seller and funding agencies for making this unique opportunity a reality,” said Stephen Kullman, Board President of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

The property is located just south of the Manila Dunes Recreation Area. Adding this property to the existing conservation lands on the north spit of Humboldt Bay will create a continuous connected area of more than 1600 acres of sweeping native dunes managed for habitat conservation and public access. Friends of the Dunes plans to lead small group tours of the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands when it is safe and appropriate to do so under existing public health guidance, so that the interested public can gain access and learn about this remarkable conservation land.     

“We’re grateful to all of the partners in this ongoing, landmark conservation project. Friends of the Dunes does not see ourselves as the long-term landowner of the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands, and we do not plan to do any development of trails, parking areas, or restoration activities during our tenure as interim land manager,” said Carol Vander Meer, the Board President of Friends of the Dunes. “We are cooperating with our county, state, federal, and Tribal partners to determine what ownership or management is in the best long-term interests of this land and our community.”

Friends of the Dunes has established partnerships with the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Humboldt County, the State Coastal Conservancy, the Wiyot Tribe, and many other conservation organizations. Friends of the Dunes is in the process of developing a multi-party Memorandum of Understanding for cooperative management of the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Property.

“All of the partners working on this project are committed to protecting the beauty and diversity of this remarkable piece of land,” said Vander Meer. “That’s really the core of this conservation project—caring for the land brings us together, and we are working cooperatively so that the beauty and diversity of our coast can be enjoyed for generations to come.”