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President Obama Protects Public Lands As Part of His “Year of Action”

11 Mar 2014  |   Mark Sheridan

Tags: General Environment

Following up on his pledge in his State of the Union Address to “use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations” during this “year of action,” President Obama today designated Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands as part of the California Coastal National Monument. The 1,665-acre nature preserve is located in Northern California along the scenic Mendocino County coast. This designation, which came in response to the local community’s desire to protect their land, will preserve this special area for future generations and will significantly benefit the local economy by highlighting it on the tourist map. 

Local residents and California elected officials enthusiastically welcomed the decision. Representative Jared Huffman, whose district includes the Point Arena-Stornetta region, tweeted about the announcement: “Very proud of this news; my first bill in Congress was to protect this land. I'm glad Pres. Obama is taking action.” Senator Barbara Boxer said in a statement, “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.” 

President Obama’s action gives yet another boost to the ongoing momentum for conservation. Two weeks ago the EPA moved towards using its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Alaska’s irreplaceable, salmon-rich Bristol Bay from construction of what would be the largest open pit mine in North America, the Pebble Mine. This past January, 109 House Democrats signed on to a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging her and the president to protect and conserve national treasures under the executive authorities provided by the Antiquities Act.  That letter responded to a bold speech on conservation that Secretary Jewell delivered last October in which she said that she and the president would use executive action to protect public lands.  She followed up by attending public meetings at Point Arena-Stornetta in November and New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region in January, where she heard robust local support for protecting lands in those communities. 

National parks, monuments, and cultural sites throughout the U.S. benefit local economies and provide important recreation opportunities.  A recent Department of Interior report detailed that national parks generated $26.8 billion in economic activity in 2012 and supported 243,000 jobs. In California specifically, a Bureau of Land Management report estimated that recreation on California public lands contributed $900 million to the economy in 2012. And in Mendocino County, home to Point Arena-Stornetta, travel and tourism already support 5,000 jobs.  The importance of national parks and public lands was especially evident during the government shutdown this past October. Their closure caused significant public outcry and severely impacted local economies that rely on park visitors. As a result of the shutdown, there were seven million fewer park visitors in October and local economies lost a combined total of $76 million per day. 

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906—which President Obama invoked today with his designation of Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands—presidents are granted the authority to protect significant ecological, historical and cultural resources as national monuments. First exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents from both parties. Iconic places such as the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park were originally protected as national monuments.  We applaud President Obama for giving Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands the protection it deserves and we look forward to working with him as he continues responding to the wishes of local communities across the country that want their lands protected.  That will be good for local economies today as well as future generations. 

(Photograph taken by Jim Pickering/BLM)

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