News Release: Obama Designates Five New National Monuments; Conservationists, local leaders celebrate designations
Durango, CO (January 12, 2017) – The Conservation Lands Foundation applauded today’s national monument designations and the announcement of efforts to make our parks and monuments more inclusive for all Americans.
“President Obama is an exceptional conservationist. His actions to safeguard America’s natural, cultural and historic sites have been heroic. Our nation will look back on his achievements with admiration, and celebrate these national monuments for generations,” said Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “What a great way to close out an immensely consequential presidency,” added O’Donnell.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Expansion
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is the first and only national monument explicitly designated to protect an area of outstanding biological diversity. The scientific community agreed that expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was essential to protect the monument’s outstanding biodiversity and important biological connectivity. The expansion in Oregon and northern California will make the monument more resilient to the effects of climate change by providing comprehensive and cohesive protection of this biologically unique and valuable landscape.
California Coastal National Monument Expansion
The newly expanded California Coastal National Monument includes six new areas: Trinidad Head, Waluplh-Lighthouse Ranch, Lost Coast Headlands, Cotoni-Coast Dairies, Piedras Blancas, and Orange County Rocks. The expanded monument built on the legislative effort led by Senator Boxer and Representatives Huffman, Eshoo and Capps. This is the second time the monument has been expanded to include on-shore properties, allowing for greater access and understanding of the Coast, and ensuring that each location’s historic, cultural, and natural character will receive greater recognition. In 2014, President Obama expanded the California Coastal National Monument to include Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands in Mendocino County.
“I had the honor of working with President Clinton to establish the California Coastal and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monuments in 2000, two dramatic landscapes that are now more resilient and accessible thanks to President Obama’s actions today,” said former Secretary of the Interior and Conservation Lands Foundation founding Board Member Bruce Babbitt.
Civil Rights and Reconstruction Era
Today’s designations also included the new Reconstruction Era, Freedom Riders and Birmingham Civil Rights National Monuments in South Carolina and Alabama.
“The Reconstruction Era National Monument is about much more than Reconstruction,” said Richard Moe, former president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a board member of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “At its heart and historic core is Penn Center on St. Helena’s Island, S.C., where the Brick Church and other structures served as the first school for freed slaves during the Civil War, and a century later served as a refuge for Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, many of whom still regard it as a ‘sacred place’. What’s happened there over two centuries – and what’s still happening there – makes Penn Center one of the most historically significant African American sites in the country.”
“Today, President Obama completed an effort that began a generation ago to establish a national monument dedicated to the Reconstruction era and to tell this important and misunderstood chapter in our nation’s story. I commend President Obama for honoring, celebrating, and bringing attention our nation’s rich history and diversity,” said Babbitt.
As the face of America continues to become more diverse, our national parks and monuments have lagged behind in reflecting the nation’s growing diversity. It is essential that our federal agencies make it a priority to engage all Americans in accessing and conserving our system of public lands and waters. The new Presidential Memorandum will ensure that the demographic and ethnic diversity of our nation’s people begins to be reflected among visitors to these places.
President Obama designated the new national monuments using authority granted to the executive branch by Congress under the Antiquities Act. Beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, 16 presidents—8 from each party—have used the Antiquities Act to protect important cultural, historic and natural sites found on our nation’s public lands. This law has been used effectively by presidents to honor and protect places that reflect America’s diversity and traditionally underrepresented communities.