President Obama expanded the California Coastal National Monument on Tuesday by adding the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino County coast, a region of dramatic and wind-swept bluffs and dunes.
Obama acted unilaterally after legislation expanding the monument stalled in Congress.
The presidential order will add 1,665 acres of federal land north of the town of Point Arena to the monument, which was established in 2000 to protect marine habitat and the thousands of islands and reefs that hug 1,110 miles of California coastline. This is the first onshore land to be included in the monument.
The addition — under the jurisdiction of the federal Bureau of Land Management — is part of the rugged coastline where the Garcia River flows into the Pacific Ocean. The addition features tide pools, dunes, bluffs and the river's estuary.
Obama signed the order in a White House ceremony, saying the United States "is blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It's up to us to protect them, so our children's children can experience them, too."
Sen. Barbara Boxer had twice introduced a bill to add Point Arena-Stornetta land to the monument, but the legislation failed. Congressmen representing the region, Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), supported the legislation in the House.
Scott Schneider, chief executive of Visit Mendocino, said local small businesses welcomed the designation, which he said will boost the region's economy and help support some 5,000 tourism-related jobs.
Obama signaled earlier this year that he would not wait for Congress to protect sensitive landscapes and would instead invoke the Antiquities Act, under which a president can bypass lawmakers. It is the 10th time in his two terms that Obama has used the executive power to establish a national monument.
That intention was underscored by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who said she would not hesitate to recommend worthy candidates for conservation.
Jewell will be on hand Wednesday for a celebration at the site. With an eye to facilitate more sweeping conservation, local groups have been acquiring land in the area for years. The last parcel was purchased last year by the Trust for Public Land, which bought more than 500 acres of the former Stornetta Dairy and donated the parcel to the monument.
Monument designation is not without controversy. Some communities oppose the higher level of protections afforded a monument, saying new land-use rules may prohibit long-standing activities such as hunting, fishing and off-road vehicle use.
It is not clear what restrictions, if any, will apply to the new monument area. The BLM will be required to develop a new management plan for the parcel.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun