Chapter 11 - ACECs
Coast Management Area

Point Sal

Point Sal is about 13 aerial miles southwest of Santa Maria, California. The ACEC contains 77 acres.

Point Sal is a sand dune rocky promontory, located on the western terminus of the east-west trending Point Sal Ridge in northern Santa Barbara County, California. The ACEC is within the south end of the Nipomo Dunes - Point Sal National Natural Landmark. The ACEC is presently enclosed by private or state land to the north, east and south, and the Pacific Ocean along the western boundary. Point Sal has been aptly described as "one of the most picturesque points in the county of Santa Barbara" (California Coastal Commission).

Point Sal was designated as an ACEC in September 1984 and consists of 77 acres as adjusted in the 1988 cadastral survey. The purpose for establishing Point Sal as an ACEC is to provide protection and special management attention to numerous sensitive resources, and allow uses which will not damage or endanger the resources.

Archaeological sites within the ACEC are unique and are among the premiere cultural resources along the southern coast region of California. These sites are representative of successive Native American uses of the area ranging from 4800 to 250 years before present. Indeed, the cultural landscape exhibits a long history of occupation and utilization by Native Americans.

The high frequency of archaeological sites within the ACEC implies that the entire Point Sal area served as an important use area for the procurement of various marine and terrestrial resources. The sites range in size and use from what appears to be large residential bases, to various sized seasonal camps occupied for relatively limited periods and purposes, to small day use areas.

The sites present at Point Sal are important to regional scientific research as some "are larger and contain denser cultural remains than do sites immediately beyond the project area" (Glassow 1991:81). These sites provide unique opportunities to study, "the manner in which the utilization of the shellfish from an intertidal habitat may have changed through time in response to environmental changes" (Glassow 1991:81). Moreover, Point Sal cultural resources are relatively intact cultural remains considered to be very unique along the highly developed and industrialized California coast.

Point Sal is located near the boundary of two major language dialect areas of the indigenous Chumash people: thePurisimento (Santa Barbara area) and the Obispeño (San Luis Obispo area). Point Sal is also near the territorial interface of the Chumash and Salinan speakers, two separate and distinct languages but somewhat related linguistically (Krober 1925).

Point Sal possesses a number of unique biological attributes. The area is a transition zone where plant species most common to the north are sympatric with species more common to the south, forming unique plant species assemblages.  Several endemic species may also be present on the parcel, and many are considered sensitive. Surf thistle (FC/CT) is known to occur on public lands. Island wallflower is also known to occur on public land. San Luis Obispo County monardella has a high potential to occur on this parcel. These last two species are on the California Native Plant Society's List 1B.

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These unique and diverse plant communities, in association with topographic features, provide a variety of undisturbed wildlife habitat comprised of marine, intertidal, subtidal, and terrestrial areas. Researchers (Glassow 1991) have pointed out that at Point Sal, the underlying bedrock shelves extend into the intertidal zone, which provides an ideal habitat for shellfish and other intertidal life forms preferring rocky beaches.

Several State and Federal sensitive and rare, threatened, and endangered wildlife species use the area. Such species include the California brown pelican (FE/CE), American peregrine falcon (FE/CE), and California least tern (FE/CE).  In addition, a variety of marine and terrestrial wildlife species inhabit the area.

Point Sal is located in the southwestern portion of the Coast Range geomorphic province. A sequence of mafic and ultramafic rocks which are contained within the Franciscan Complex are found exposed at Point Sal. These rocks are thought to represent typical oceanic crust and are referred to as ophiolite sequence. In the late 1800s gold and some platinum and chromite was mined from beach sands in the vicinity of Point Sal. There are no other known mineral occurrences on the public land parcel; however there is reference to a copper prospect 2 miles to the east and chromite about 2 miles southeast. A small amount of gypsum was mined from the area, perhaps as far as 5 miles to the east in the late 1800s. The potential for economic quantities of locatable minerals is considered to be low.

This ACEC lies within the Santa Maria Basin which is considered to have high potential for the occurrence of oil and gas.

Numerous seeps and springs are present within the Point Sal ACEC. Rain soaking through the dunes follows the underlaying bedrock strata downhill and discharges at the coastline just above the high tide level (Vaughn, n.d.). Tests indicate that presently the water is probably contaminated by fecal coliform but is not heavily mineralized (Glassow 1991).

The ACEC has been managed under the Point Sal ACEC Plan adopted by the BLM in September, 1984. Many of the objectives and recommendations of the plan have been partially implemented.

Presently, the Point Sal ACEC has no mining leases or claims, oil and gas leases, grazing leases, or land use authorizations.

Point Sal ACEC continues to meet the relevance and importance criteria as warranted by the significant cultural and natural resources values.

Objective      Manage to protect unique cultural, visual, geologic, and biological resources including rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species and maintain opportunities for compatible scientific and primitive recreation activities.

Management Prescriptions

Manage as a Day Use Area

The ACEC is closed to oil, gas, and geothermal leasing.

All public lands within the ACEC are proposed for withdrawal from entry under the mining laws.

The ACEC is unavailable for livestock grazing due to other resource concerns.

The ACEC is designated as closed to OHV use.

Access is limited to pedestrian travel on designated trails within the ACEC.

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Support Actions

Pursue a Cooperative Management Agreement with the California Department of Fish and Game and/or the California State Parks Department.

Nominate Point Sal as a National Register District for protection of significant cultural values.

Legal Description

The ACEC originally encompassed approximately 50 acres of public land. As a result of a 1988 cadastral survey on omitted land, the ACEC increased to 77 acres of public land within:

T. 10 N., R. 36 E., SBB&M
Sec. 34 Lots 7 and 8

Area Map

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