Image courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
President Barack Obama has used his pen to grant additional protections to more than 1,600 spectacular acres along California’s Mendocino coast.
On March 11 Obama designated the Point Arena-Stornetta unit of the California Coastal National Monument.
“As some of you know, in my State of the Union address I talked about taking any actions that I could to ensure that this incredible gift of American lands, the natural bounty that has been passed on to us from previous generations, is preserved for future generations,” Obama said during a signing ceremony. “And I pledged 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.”
The country’s newest addition to the inventory of national monuments is situated along about 12 miles of the Pacific coast, near the tiny town of Point Arena. The Point Arena-Stornetta unit connects the beach in Manchester State Park to the town and includes the estuary of the Garcia River, cliffs, dunes, and meadows.
Rixanne Wehren, the coastal committee chairperson for the Sierra Club’s Mendocino Group, said that the new preserve is unique because of the undeveloped nature of the area’s coastline and the scenic features included within it.
“It has beautiful coastline resources, both based in the water and based on the land,” she said. “It also has one of the very few waterfalls that comes directly off the land into the ocean and many tide pools and near-shore habitats that are quite prolific with sea life, all observable from the shore.”
These picturesque magnets for tourists are not the only reasons the Point Arena-Stornetta unit has significant environmental value. It is also home to at least four threatened or endangered species, including Behren’s silverspot butterfly, California red-legged frog, Point Arena mountain beaver, and snowy plover.
Salmon may also benefit from the new preserve. Chinook and coho salmon are native to the Garcia River watershed, as are steelhead. The chinook run is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, as are the region’s steelhead, while the coho stock is endangered.
While the protection of the coastal prairie and beach south of that river probably will not affect upstream impacts on the two endangered runs, advocates for conserving California’s fisheries lauded Obama’s move as a boost for public-private partnerships and recreational fishing.
“Designating the Point Arena-Stornetta public lands as a national monument is a no brainer, for fish and for people,” Brian Johnson, director of Trout Unlimited’s California Program, said.
Obama emphasized the environmental, educational, and economic value of the Point Arena-Stornetta lands at the signing ceremony.
“We are talking about over 1,600 acres of incredible coastline in California that reflects the incredible diversity of flora and fauna,” the president said before signing the document that invoked the Antiquities Act. “It is a place where scientists do research; where people who just want to experience the great outdoors can take advantage of it. It is a huge economic boost for the region.”
The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management acquired most of the Point Arena-Stornetta land in 2005, when the family that had owned it for three generations sold 1,132 acres to the government for about $7.8 million. Other conservation efforts added 533 more acres in the immediate area to the BLM’s holdings.
Former President Bill Clinton established the California Coastal National Monument in January 2000. It protects more than 20,000 reefs, islands, and rocks that serve as important habitat for a variety of wildlife species.
The New York Times recently highlighted the Point Arena-Stornetta area as third among 52 places suggested for tourists to visit during 2014.
BLM must develop a management plan for the new national monument addition by March 2017.
NOTE: This post was updated on March 23, 2014.