Wiyot Tribe Celebrates Return of Coastal Land

SACRAMENTO, CA – In a recent ceremony held in Humboldt, CA, the Wiyot Tribe and its partners, including the Ocean Protection Council and Cal Poly Humboldt, celebrated the purchase of one of the last pieces of undeveloped coastal wetland and upland near the bay. The 46 acres, known as Mouralherwaqh, will be preserved for the cultural significance to the Wiyot Tribe and the environmental importance to the area.

“This is how we make change in today’s world,” said Wiyot Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez during the cerenomy.

The tribe acquired the land with support from the Ocean Protection Council (OPC), a cabinet-level state policy body nested within the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA). OPC awarded Proposition 1 funds to the project through a targeted coastal environmental justice solicitation. The solicitation provided a first-time dedicated pathway for state investment in multi-benefit projects that improve water quality, ecosystem health, and climate resilience for communities burdened by environmental injustice.

“We are grateful and humbled to have played a role in returning this land to the Wiyot Tribe,” said OPC’s Deputy Director, Jenn Eckerle. “This acquisition advances OPC’s strategic priorities to improve equity and environmental justice, but most importantly, it’s a significant milestone in reconnecting the tribe to its ancestral lands and waters and using cultural knowledge and practices to restore and conserve nature along the coast.”

Benefits from the project are likely to accrue for generations as the Tribal Council actively engages in project development and provides input for future visioning of Mouralherwaqh as a culturally important gathering place for tribal members and as a vital ecosystem. By protecting and restoring the coastal uplands and wetlands in the area, improving water quality, and removing invasive species, this project also supports the state’s commitment to protect biodiversity and conserve 30 percent of lands and coastal waters by 2030.

“The return of ancestral lands and conserving culturally and ecologically important places are core commitments of the California Natural Resources Agency in our Nature-Based Solutions work,” said CNRA’s Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs, Geneva E. B. Thompson. “We are thankful for the Wiyot Tribe’s leadership in the protection of Mouralherwaqh and its important resources and excited to see these lands returned to the Tribe and their stewardship.”

The tribe will work with Cal Poly Humboldt, Humboldt Baykeeper, and other partners towards the ecocultural and environmental goals for the land. Together, they will develop and implement a restoration plan for the site prioritizing cultural connection and water quality protection.