Policy: Environment & Energy

Obama expands California national monument

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President Obama expanded a California national monument Tuesday, making good on a pledge to unilaterally declare more wilderness areas if Congress doesn't.

"[I]n my State of the Union address I talked 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," Obama said of his move to protect the 1,665 acres of coastline known as Point Arena-Stornetta.

The lands contain natural resources, including "incredible diversity of flora and fauna" that are the subject of scientific research, Obama noted. The president also said it would provide a "huge economic boost for the region," underscoring the administration's view — as expressed in the budget plan announced this month, which called for "an historic" parks revitalization effort — that public lands are an economic driver for communities.

But incorporating Point Arena-Stornetta into the California Coastal National Monument engendered quick criticism from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, who has in the past objected to the use of the 1906 Antiquities Act that Obama employed to designate the monument.

The Washington Republican noted that the lower chamber had already passed bipartisan legislation to protect that area and was awaiting action from the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“Instead of using imperial powers, the president should pick up the phone and call upon Senate Democrats to take action," Hastings said. "There is no inherent danger to this area or compelling reason for the president to take unilateral action now."

The move also comes one week after the House sent the White House its first public lands protection bill since 2010. That bill would expand the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Glen Arbor, Mich., to include an extra 32,500 acres of Lake Michigan coastline.

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Zack Colman

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner