A Proud Day For Conservation, And For America: Obama Designates Five National Monuments

Thursday, January 12 was a proud day for conservation, and for America. President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate five national monuments, including 3 Southern civil rights sites and expansions of two existing national monuments in the West.

The three historic sites honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement with the designation of the Reconstruction Era, Birmingham Civil Rights, and Freedom Riders National Monuments. These monuments permanently protect some of the country’s most important African American historical and cultural sites, and they help tell the story of pivotal times in America’s history that have been underrepresented in our parks and monuments. The Reconstruction Era national monument is the first National Park Service site dedicated to Reconstruction.

Additionally, the President will add six spectacular sites to the California Coastal National Monument and expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to better protect the region’s outstanding wildlife, plant and habitat diversity. These designations would not have been possible without the work and support of many groups in the Friends Grassroots Network, including Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and Soda Mountain Wilderness Council in Oregon, and numerous groups in California: Friends of Point Arena-Stornetta LandsLand Trust of Santa Cruz County, Mattole Restoration CouncilMendocino Land TrustPiedras Blancas Light Station AssociationSempervirens Fund and Trinidad Coastal Land Trust. Our partners Azul and Peninsula Open Space Trust also deserve thanks.

Stornetta coast

Calif. Coastal Nat’l Monument  Photo: Bob Wick

Each of today’s designations are historic on their own. Together, they represent a major step forward in the effort to ensure that our protected public lands reflect the true diversity–and a more complete history–of our nation.

“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.

“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.

Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, OR

Cascade-Siskiyou Nat’l Monument, Oregon

As he leaves office, President Obama has established an unparalleled conservation legacy, having used the Antiquities Act to conserve more of America’s lands and waters than any of his predecessors. He has also taken taken major steps forward in making sure our parks and other protected public lands tell the story of all Americans. We are proud and honored to celebrate these designations, and all of the conservation achievements of the past four years. Our commitment to the grassroots has never been stronger: together we will uphold the conservation gains we’ve made, protect our National Conservation Lands and ensure our bedrock environmental laws remain fully intact.

For more details on each of the designations, and the Presidential Memorandum promoting diversity and inclusion in our national parks and public lands, you can read our news release here.

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