Obama signs protection for Northern California coastline, expanding national monument

POINT ARENA, Calif. – President Barack Obama is fulfilling a State of the Union pledge to preserve more federal lands by adding more California coastline to a national monument.

Obama on Tuesday signed a proclamation permanently protecting some 1,665 acres in Northern California’s Mendocino County, just north of Point Arena. He says he wants to make sure the land is cherished and preserved for future generations.

The action expands the California Coastal National Monument that President Bill Clinton created in 2000. The protected area includes coastal bluffs and shelves, onshore sand dunes, tide pools, coastal prairies, riverbanks and the mouth and estuary of the salmon-filled Garcia River. Obama noted it provides an economic boost to the region through tourism.

Markley Bavinger with the Trust for Public Land, one of the environmental and community groups working to protect the site, described the area in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle.

“You get out on that landscape, and you are out there in a different world — and it’s a magical world,” Bavinger said. “You’re surrounded by these vistas that extend all the way as far as the eye can see.”

Many nearby residents hope Obama’s proclamation will lure more tourists to Point Arena, a small city in Mendocino County.

The property’s shoreline is home to a variety of creatures, including beavers, sea lions and the endangered Behren’s silverspot butterfly. Chinook and coho salmon as well as steelhead trout can be found in the Garcia River, and whales migrate off the coast.

Obama’s proclamation bypasses Congress, where many public lands bills have stalled.

The property is officially known as the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands. Clover Stornetta Farms was the original owner of some of the property but gave its title to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in a complicated $8 million deal in 2005, according to the Chronicle.

A separate part of the property was owned by the Cypress Abbey Co. and was turned over for management by the BLM last year, the newspaper reported.

In the 1970s, the Cypress Abbey portion of the land was for a time the proposed site of a Pacific Gas and Electric nuclear power plant that faced strong opposition because of the area’s proximity to the San Andreas Fault.

A number of Democratic politicians supported including the lands in the national monument, including California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson.

“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 Sunday.