.Amah Mutsun Tribe Continues Legal Fight to Preserve Ancestral Homeland

Amah Mutsun sues to protect cultural resources

As part of its mission to serve as stewards of their ancestral land, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band has filed a lawsuit against San Benito County to halt development of a 26-acre commercial project on Betabel Road off Highway 101. The site is located within the Juristac, land that is considered sacred to the tribe, with “significant historical, cultural and religious value.”

Two other organizations—the Center for Biological Diversity and Protect San Benito—filed a similar complaint in superior court, alleging that the county’s environmental review was insufficient.

The Amah Mutsun lawsuit asks the San Benito County Superior Court to set aside the board of supervisors’ previous approvals for the Betabel Road project, located next to Highway 101. The lawsuit also asks the court to prohibit the project from moving forward “unless and until the developers and county comply with” the California Environmental Quality Act and other applicable land use laws, says a press release from the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.

The proposed site contains tribal cultural resources that will be “irreparably harmed” by the development.

It is also a key wildlife corridor connecting the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Diablo Range and the Gabilan Range.

The county board of supervisors on Nov. 8 voted to approve a conditional use permit and certify the final environmental impact report for the Betabel project—even though the EIR identified “significant and unavoidable impacts” on scenic resources, farmland and tribal cultural resources. The board also rejected, on a 4-1 vote, two appeals of an earlier planning commission recommendation to approve the Betabel project.

Located at 9644 Betabel Road and owned by the McDowell Charity Trust, the project includes 108,425 square feet of commercial space.

The Amah Mutsun Tribe’s lawsuit names the county, board of supervisors and project developers as defendants.

“The county rushed through this commercial development proposal, neglecting to finish basic studies requested by the Tribe in time for them to be considered, and releasing a blatantly incomplete environmental impact report,” said Sara A. Clark, partner at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, the law firm representing the Amah Mutsun. “Then the county failed to revise their report to incorporate information on Tribal cultural resources at the project site. We are asking that the county follow their own local laws and the laws of the State of California.”

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