04.23.13

Congressman Huffman to introduce Bill to Add Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to National Monument

Photo by Bureau of Land Management

Fast on the heals President Obama’s designation of five new National Monuments last week, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) took advantage of the monument momentum by holding a press conference on Friday in Point Arena, CA where he announced a bill that would add Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument, it’s first terrestrial portion. The bill would expand the existing California Coastal National Monument by approximately 10 miles and include natural jewels such as the Garcia Estuary, the five-acre Sea Island Rocks Island, and two miles of the Garcia River, a prime habitat for steelhead, coho, and chinook salmon.

Ahead of the press conference, Congressman Huffman outlined his thoughts in an OP ED piece for the Ukiah Daily Journal, where he described his motivations for this bill. “The Public Lands encompass more than 1,100 acres of pristine coastal wetlands and hold natural wonders like habitat for endangered butterflies and the endangered Point Arena mountain beaver,” he said. “They provide visitors with tremendous views and support a diverse array of wildlife. If you’ve ever visited the southern Mendocino coast ­ perhaps to fish, hike, bird watch, or simply get outside ­you can attest to the signature beauty of this unspoiled coastline.”

In a recent article concerning Point Arena-Stornetta for The Press Democrat, author Mary Callahan pointed out additional advantages to the proposed expansion. “The property is situated not only as an obvious gateway to the off-shore monument but as a connecting link to neighboring public properties that can provide real estate for the Mendocino portion of the California Coastal Trail.”

Callahan also noted, “The property wraps around the Point Arena Lighthouse, abuts Manchester Beach State Park on the north side of the point and, to the south reaches toward a growing expanse of public lands that includes the BLM-managed Cypress Abbey Ranch, Phase I, acquired by the Trust for Public Lands last year, and a larger Phase II to be added later this year or next.”

Congressman Huffman will introduce this legislation when he returns to Washington, D.C. in early April. He will be joined by Congressman Mike Thompson, who previously represented the North Coast. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have introduced companion legislation in the Senate. Huffman was joined by Point Arena Mayor Lloyd Cross, former mayor Leslie Dalhoff, California State Director of the Bureau of Land Management Jim Kenna, as well as representatives from the Sierra Club, the Trust for Public Land, Mendocino Land Trust, and  the Redwood Coast Conservancy. A representative from Senator Feinstein’s office attended the event and Senator Boxer sent a letter of support.

Winston Bowen, president of the Mendocino Land Trust, an organization in CLF’s Friends Grassroots Network, put the benefits of this bill succinctly. “It just raises the level of care that the property gets, and public access, to an entirely new level.”

Advocates and politicians have joined forces, setting the stage for a California Coastal Monument expansion either by legislation or presidential proclamation.