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Expansion of California Coastal National Monument Under Consideration

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Tidal flats and the Point Arena Lighthouse.
Tidal flats and the Point Arena Lighthouse. Photo: SP8254/Flickr/Creative Commons License

"Expand to Land" is the battle cry of supporters of a public lands bill in Northern California.

They want to see the nearly 1,300 acres near Mendocino -- known as Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands -- made part of the California Coastal National Monument, a unique and somewhat intangible designation that protects thousands of small islands, rocks, and other exposed natural features off the coastline between Mexico and Oregon.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is in Mendocino County today for a public meeting to hear the community's vision for the lands that are now under the control of the Bureau of Land Management.

Scott Schneider, president and CEO of Visit Mendocino County, says adding the Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument would preserve the area for generations to come.

"Currently the California Coastal National Monument is only the rocks off of the coast of California," he explains. "So this would be the first part of a monument that would actually be on land and that people could access."

The lands include more than two miles of coastline, a small island, and the estuary of the Garcia River, which is prime Coho and Chinook salmon habitat.

Schneider adds the designation would also boost Mendocino County's tourism, which supports close to 5,000 jobs and more than $20 million in state and local taxes.

Point Arena is located north of San Francisco and south of Fort Bragg. Schneider says the ultimate goal of Visit Mendocino County is to bring more visitors to the area and have them stay longer.

"Having this be designated in such a beautiful part of the county that, quite frankly, is not one of the higher-visited parts of the county, would bring a lot more people here," he says. "They would really get a sense for what our county has to offer to visitors."

The Point Arena-Stornetta public lands bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, passed the House Committee on Natural Resources this summer.

Lawmakers have also urged President Barack Obama to include the area in the monument by executive designation under the Antiquities Act.

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