Making Fort Ord a National Monument
A diverse group of people packed last Friday’s listening session, hosted by Department of Interior’s Secretary Salazar. In the end, the message from the Secretary and the crowd was clear, there is strong support to permanently protect Fort Ord, perhaps as a national monument. The U.S. Army post on Monterey Bay, California was established in 1917 and served as a training and deployment center from World War I to the end of the Cold War. Fort Ord closed in 1994 and parts of the land were set aside for conservation and public recreation.
Today the public lands of Fort Ord draw over 1,000 visitors each year. More than 80 miles of trails through grassland hills and oak woodlands offer opportunities for bicyclists, hikers, trail runners, and horseback riders. As one of the few remaining undeveloped areas in the region, Ford Ord’s public lands also provide homes to dozens of rare plants and animals—many like the Toro Manzanita found almost nowhere else. These rare plants and animals, like golden eagles and the endangered Smith’s blue butterfly, bring wildlife viewers, photographers and nature enthusiasts to the area.
During the listening session Secretary Salazar noted the power of public lands to create jobs and grow the economy—an idea enthusiastically supported by Congressman Sam Farr.
“For more than a century Fort Ord has served as a critical component of our Central Coast community, economy and proud history,” said Farr.
From the Monterey County Herald:
Jokingly calling the region the Disneyland of the outdoors, Farr said, “There is more diversity of outdoor activity (here) than anyplace else in the United States.”
According to Salazar, recreational workers account for 1 in 20 jobs, exceeding the number of doctors, lawyers, or teachers. In California, the 10 million annual recreation visitors to Bureau of Land Management lands contribute $980 million to local California economies and 7,600 recreation-related jobs.
The listening session at Fort Ord was part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, an ongoing effort by the Obama Administration to support locally-driven efforts to protect special places across the country. And as was clearly demonstrated at the session, a Fort Ord National Monument has a lot of support. Community groups like the Native Plant Society, Fort Ord Rec Users, the local Sierra Club and Fort Ord Friends have all lined up behind permanent protections for the area as have the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and city council members from Marina to Pacific Grove.
The recreation, education, and conservation opportunities offered by Fort Ord are certainly worthy of protection. We hope the Obama Administration will support the calls of the local community and his Secretary of Interior to designate Fort Ord a national monument.
Photos courtesy TWS (top) and BLM (middle).