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Stornetta Public Lands Move Closer to Protection

Stornetta_waterfall_Bruce Jensen

Copyright Bruce H. Jensen 2012

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed Congressman Huffman’s (CA-02) Stornetta Public Lands bill under suspension of the rules (a procedure undertaken when a non-controversial bills are offered a vote).  This is a terrific step forward toward permanent protection of this special place along California’s Mendocino Coast.  Now, we hope for action in the U.S. Senate, as Senators Boxer and Feinstein’s companion bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  

Unfortunately, Congressman Huffman’s bill was amended by Congressman Bishop during markup in the House Natural Resources Committee.  These amendments, included in the final bill, incorporated unnecessary grazing language, despite the bill’s original assurance that existing grazing remain (to the benefit of native butterflies!), as well as a limitation on the means by which additional land can be added to the monument in the future.  These types of unnecessary roadblocks impair the original integrity of the bill; we certainly hope to see them removed in conference with the Senate bill.  

Luckily, Stornetta Public Lands has been highlighted as one of the 5 Best Vacation Spots for Hiking in a recent Health magazine article and we here at Sierra Club could not agree more. The article touted Stornetta for its “stunning views” and described that during a stroll along the trails of Stornetta “you'll come upon waterfalls, tide pools and harbor seals sunbathing on the rocks”. As with the legislation, we are glad to see Stornetta Public Lands receive the attention it rightly deserves as a location worthy of protection and enjoyment.

As we’ve noted before, the Stornetta Public Lands are situated along the south coast of California’s Mendocino County and highlight 1,132 acres of majestic views, tide pools, coastal wetlands, and more. This region is rich with natural bridges, waterfalls, sink and blowholes, as well as two miles of the Garcia River, the Garcia estuary and a five-acre island, Sea Island Rocks. Stornetta has been managed by the Bureau of Land Management since 2004 and is recognized for breathtaking scenery, and outstanding natural resources that encompass riverbanks, wildflower meadows, and shifting sand dunes—a varied environment providing terrific wildlife habitat.

All of this creates a convincing argument for defending this Pacific coast jewel. Permanent protection as an addition to the existing California Coast National Monument would protect the area’s values in perpetuity and promise the ongoing enjoyment of this irreplaceable refuge.

As the bill moves to the Senate we hope that aforementioned, unnecessary amendments that cloud the original intent of the bill are removed, so that what remains is clean legislation with the sole purpose of saving Stornetta Public Lands for future generations to enjoy.

- by Malcolm Mossman


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