Monday, November 10, 2008

Pechanga's New Golf Course on Culturally Significant Property

MEDIA ADVISORY November 9, 2008

Pechanga builds golf course on culturally significant property

TEMECULA, CA – The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians will officially open The Journey at Pechanga, a daily fee golf course, this week. The Journey, a new addition to the Pechanga Resort and Casino complex in Riverside County, California, cuts through the Great Oak Ranch which was once the home of “Perry Mason” novelist Erle Stanley Gardner.

The Great Oak Ranch was the subject of a heated and costly battle from 2000 to 2003 as the Pechanga Band fought to keep SDG & E from running a power line through the property. Throughout, tribal officials stressed the need to protect the Great Oak and the many significant and invaluable cultural and archaeological resources on the Ranch from the impacts related to development.

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) sponsored several bills aimed at protecting the Ranch from development. In a hearing on one of Congressman Issa’s bills, Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro testified to the House of Representatives Committee on Resources that, “The sole purpose of the (land) acquisition is the preservation and protection of the Luiseno people’s natural and cultural resources.”

And, when specifically asked if the Pechanga Tribe had “any plans for development of any kind on the Great Oak Ranch property”, Chairman Macarro responded as follows:

“No, we don’t. As stated … the intended use and purpose is to preserve and protect the resources that are there.”

Needless to say, the development of the golf course and other projects on land that was supposed to be free from impacts in no way reflects the “no change in use” testified to by Mr. Macarro. While the transfer of the Ranch property protected it from the proposed power line project, the transfer did not protect the Ranch or its resources from tribal development projects, including the golf course.

“The transfer of the Great Oak Ranch and eventual development of the property is tragic,” stated John Gomez, Jr.* “If the golf course project, or any other development, had been proposed on private property as culturally rich and significant as this, you better believe that tribal officials would have taken every action, whether it be lawsuits or acts of Congress, to stop it. Unfortunately, the duty to protect and preserve does not apply to tribal projects that may add to the bottom line.”

In addition to the impacts development has had on the cultural and archaeological resources on the Great Oak Ranch and the surrounding area, it appears that the tribal officials’ double-talk was reason enough for the City of Temecula and others to raise serious concerns regarding a recent bill sponsored by Congressman Issa to transfer additional lands to the United States government for the Pechanga Band.

The bill, HR 2963, which was passed in September, transferred land in Riverside and San Diego Counties for “the protection, preservation, and maintenance of the archaeological, cultural, and wildlife resources thereon”. Based on their experience with the Great Oak Ranch transfer, the City of Temecula and local residents sought and received language in HR 2963 that would restrict development. However, only time will tell if the bill language is enough to protect the invaluable cultural and archaeological resources from the development plans of tribal officials.
*As Legal Analyst for the Office of the Tribal Attorney for the Pechanga Band, John Gomez Jr. spent the better part of two years working with local, State and Federal officials to protect the Great Oak Ranch and the cultural and archaeological resources located thereon from development
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