President Obama whipped out his pen today to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to declare 1,665 acres along the Mendocino coastline in Northern California protected land — an action that was already working its way through Congress.
The Point Arena-Stornetta Unit becomes the first shoreline addition to the California Coastal National Monument, established by President Clinton in 2000 to protect islands, rocks and reefs within 12 nautical miles of the Golden State’s shores.
“In my State of the Union address, I said that I would use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations,” Obama said in a statement. “Our country is blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It’s up to us to protect them, so our children’s children can experience them, too. That’s what today is about. By designating Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands a national monument, we’ll also support the local economy.”
The White House said the presidential proclamation “builds upon” Clinton’s “vision” by adding coastal bluffs and shelves, tide pools, onshore dunes, coastal prairies, riverbanks, and the mouth and estuary of the Garcia River to the national monument.
The administration pointed to $900 million contributed to California’s economy in 2012 by recreation on Bureau of Land Management areas. The BLM acquired the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands funded in part by the Land and Water Conservation Fund “following years of work with private land owners and partners,” the White House said.
Congressional Republicans have previously decried Obama’s use of Teddy Roosevelt’s act to bypass legislative review on land designations.
“Major land-use decisions that impact local communities and economies should be made by those affected and their elected leaders, not unilaterally by the president,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in 2012 when Obama used the Antiquities Act to establish the César E. Chávez National Monument.
Obama said today at a signing ceremony he was just fulfilling his pledge “about taking any actions that I could to ensure that this incredible gift of American lands, the natural bounty that has been passed on to us from previous generations, is preserved for future generations.”
“And I pledged to act wherever I could to make sure that our children, our grandchildren are going to be able to look upon this land of ours with the same wonder as we have,” he said.
However, the executive action is more about show than righting a do-nothing Congress: a bill from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) expanding the national monument passed the House by voice vote last summer and was sitting in the Senate.
The newly designated shoreline, Obama added, “is a place where scientists do research; where people who just want to experience the great outdoors can take advantage of it.”
“It is a huge economic boost for the region. California tourism obviously is important, and the California coastline I think is as big of an attraction as there is,” he said.
UPDATE 3 p.m.: Hastings issued a statement calling Obama’s action an unnecessary use of presidential powers.
“Instead of using imperial powers, the President should pick up the phone and call upon Senate Democrats to take action. The House has already passed legislation, sponsored by a California Democrat, to expand the California Coastal National Monument by adding these lands. There is no inherent danger to this area or compelling reason for the President to take unilateral action now,” Hastings said.
“The Senate simply needs to do their job and pass the bill. National monument designations should be based on the support of locally-elected leaders on behalf of their affected communities and result from an act of Congress. That’s the way the process should, and is, working. While there is broad support for the expansion of this national monument, this is clearly an unnecessary use of excessive Presidential power.”