The Washington Post

Obama uses executive authority to name Calif. preserve a national monument

President Obama signs a document proclaiming the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands as part of the California Coastal National Monument during a signing ceremony at the White House on March 11. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

President Obama used his executive authority Tuesday to designate his 10th national monument, a 1,665-acre nature preserve on the Northern California coast.

The Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands — which includes jagged bluffs as well as tidal pools and sand dunes — provides habitat for several types of migratory waterfowl as well as the threatened Point Arena mountain beaver. The Garcia River, which runs through the area, is home to both coho and chinook salmon.

In signing the proclamation, Obama noted that he had vowed in his State of the Union address two months ago “to act wherever I could to make sure that our children, our grandchildren are going to be able to look upon this land of ours with the same wonder as we have.”

“California tourism obviously is important, and the California coastline I think is as big of an attraction as there is,” he added. “And so for us to make sure that this is going to be properly preserved, that it is going to be cherished, that the federal protections will be available I think is going to make all the difference.”

The preserve will be added to the existing Coastal California National Monument, a collection of 20,000 rocks, islands, exposed reefs and pinnacles along California’s 1,100-mile coast that President Bill Clinton protected in 2000.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who sought to accomplish this goal legislatively, hailed Obama’s move.

“I am so pleased that President Obama is taking action to permanently protect this majestic piece of California’s coast for future generations to enjoy,” Boxer said in a statement. “Expanding this monument will not only help preserve this sensitive coastal area and protect marine life along the coast, it will also boost the tourism economy in Mendocino County, which supports 5,000 jobs.”

The proclamation, which Obama issued under the 1906 Antiquities Act, ensures that ranching, outdoor recreation and research will continue in the area. The Bureau of Land Management will conduct a three-year process to develop a management plan for the monument.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation, questioned why Obama invoked his authority since a bill making the area a national monument had unanimously passed the House in July.

“The legislation was held up in the Senate so the president could usurp the congressional process,” Bishop said. “In other words, the House was punked by the president.”

Conservationists, however, said the administration had collaborated extensively with the local community on the issue. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell traveled there in November to hold a public listening session, and is returning there Wednesday.

“This is a critical time for the future of our public lands, which thrive under the care of local communities, the agencies that manage them, and our elected officials who act to protect them,” Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, said in a statement, adding that elected officials and local residents alike “recognize the tremendous value of these lands in helping to protect the Garcia watershed and this irreplaceable coastline.”

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.

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