Photo Credit: Martin Fletcher, Friends of the California Condors Wild and Free
Native American Endangered Species Campaign
Breaking News - September 25, 2018: Wishtoyo Prevails in Endangered Species Act Lawsuit Against United Water Conservation District to Protect and Restore Southern California Steelhead to the Santa Clara River. Click Here for Court Order and Decision
June 2, 2016: Wishtoyo files Endangered Species Act Lawsuit Against United Water Conservation District to protect and restore steelhead and endangered birds on the Santa Clara River from United's Dam and Diversion. Click Here for Complaint
Goals, Objectives, Need and Mechanisms: The objective of Wishtoyo’s Native American Endangered Species Campaign is to achieve enhanced protections for Endangered Species through local, state, and national level legal, advocacy, restoration, and education/outreach campaigns; and through integrating, sharing, and utilizing unique Native American values, knowledge, cultural practices, and legal protections that can be applied to natural and cultural resources of tribes.
Many local, state, and federal campaigns to protect endangered species lack the human nexus that the general public, school children, courts, elected officials, and government agencies need to protect endangered species. Wishtoyo’s Native American Endangered Species Campaign not only provides the often needed impetus for government decision makers, the public, and courts to take actions that best protect native endangered species, but the Campaign’s unique education/outreach, advocacy, and legal projects also serve as additional tools that can be utilized to protect endangered species.
Educating Our Future Stewards: Wishtoyo’s K-12 education and outreach programs, delivered at the Chumash Village and in public schools to thousands of underserved and minority youth per year, effectively teach the importance of protecting endangered species while ingraining a stewardship ethic that emphasizes respect and protection of all natural resources. Wishtoyo’s programs, delivered by Chumash educators in full regalia who share songs, dances, stories, and scientific presentation with the students, reach many youth who otherwise have little interest in the environment by making a personal connection to endangered species protection - they too, are integral parts of the ecosystem. It is this human element and method of engagement that drives home the importance of protecting native and endangered species.
Advocacy and Public Organizing/Outreach: Likewise, Wishtoyo shares the cultural importance of endangered species in campaigns to mobilize the public to action and to influence decision makers in advocacy campaigns. This allows us to effectively organize our communities and to influence elected officials and agencies to make decisions that protect endangered species. Wishtoyo also strategically trains other Native American educators and community leaders to educate and mobilize key constituents and to enable the delivery of stewardship programs to youth that Wishtoyo does not have the capacity to reach on its own.
Legal Action: Wishtoyo integrates and focuses on the cultural importance of endangered species to Native Americans in legal actions to not only create stronger positions in settlement negotiations and before courts in Endangered Species Act lawsuits, but also to provide additional stand alone grounds to secure protections for endangered species through claims unique to Native American cultural impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act, and California Public Trust Doctrine.
Santa Clara River Endangered Species Act Action Against United Water Conservation District: On June 2, 2016 Wishtoyo, its Ventura Coastkeeper Program, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit under the federal Endangered Species Act against United Water Conservation District for its operation of the Vern Freeman Diversion Dam and diversion of river water at the Dam that harms the Santa Clara River’s native and endangered species. Through this action, we aim to prevent the extinction and enable the recovery of the Southern California Steelhead, Least Bells Vireo, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and Western Yellow Billed Cuckoo; to improve the well being of Santa Clara River communities; and to restore Chumash Native American cultural resources.
Restoration Projects: Wishtoyo strives to protect native and/or endangered plants, birds, fish, and other animal species through restoration projects and plantings at the Chumash Discovery Village and in various traditional watersheds in Ventura and Los Angeles County.
Partnerships and Collaboration: Wishtoyo has teamed up with Center for Biological Diversity on six legal campaigns to provide enhanced and independent grounds for endangered species protections. In projects Wishtoyo either leads, extensively participates in, or just supports, we regularly seek to form similar partnerships with community groups and reputable nationwide non-profit organizations working to protect and restore endangered species through advocacy, outreach, and litigation.
Mobilizing Native Americans and California Tribes to Action: In addition, as demonstrated by Wishtoyo’s organizing efforts in the Southern California Marine Protected Area ("MPA") designation process; the defeat of a proposal to add telecommunications infrastructure to the Channel Islands; and most recently by obtaining Supreme Court amicus support letters from five federally recognized California Tribes that helped Wishtoyo and co-petitioners achieve review from the California Supreme Court in our Newhall Ranch case, Wishtoyo effectively mobilizes and organizes California Tribes to support its advocacy and litigation efforts to protect native endangered species and natural cultural resources.
Successes of Wishtoyo’s Native American Endangered Species Campaign: Wishtoyo’s Chumash advocacy, education and outreach efforts played a central supporting role in the NRDC-led campaign to ban lead bullets that have enabled the recovery of the California Condor. In addition, Wishtoyo integrates Chumash cultural concerns into our Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act lawsuits against sewage treatment plants, industrial polluters, and water diverters, which has been instrumental in achieving settlements to protect the Southern California Steelhead in the Santa Clara River watershed.
Current Campaigns to Protect Endangered Species: Through our four Newhall Ranch state and federal cases, Tejon Ranch campaign, Santa Clara River in-stream flow public trust reasonable use complaint with the State Water Resources Control Board, agritoxins pollution prevention efforts, and numerous Clean Water Act enforcement actions, we seek to protect and restore the endangered: southern California steelhead, California condor, snowy plover, least bell's vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher, western yellow billed cuckoo, tidewater goby, unarmored threespined stickleback, and rare and endangered plants and flowers.