WASHINGTON, DC – Regional officials and supporters applauded Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) for reintroducing a bill that would upgrade Pinnacles National Monument to a National Park.
The Senator’s legislation – co-sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) – will further protect Pinnacles’ unique lands and its new National Park status would boost tourism to the area.
If enacted, the bill would also expand the 16,000 acres of Pinnacles Wilderness by an additional 2,715 acres. These Wilderness additions would permanently protect portions of South Chalone Peak and Chalone Creek from development.
In a letter of support from the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce, Terri Rovella, Chair of the Board of Directors said, “The conversion of the Pinnacles National Monument to the Pinnacles National Park will create significant, positive economic impacts as it would further the recognition of the region as a tourism destination as well as bring additional Federal funding and jobs.”
Conservationist and policy expert Gordon Johnson from the California Wilderness Project said today, “These small but significant additions to the wilderness, in what we hope will soon become Pinnacles National Park, will protect federal lands that are important for recreation, solitude, and wildlife. The recognition of Pinnacles as a park will help highlight this national gem.”
Pinnacles is a popular destination for climbers, hikers, California Condor observers and other outdoor users. It is home to a rich array of native plant and animal communities and is the first national park unit to serve as a release site for the reintroduction of the endangered California Condor.
Pinnacles National Monument was originally established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Its unique geologic features include many caves and the spectacular spires and crags that are its namesake “pinnacles” the remnants of an ancient volcano. Chapparal hillsides are home to bobcat, butterflies and bats, while canyon creeks and ponds host threatened salamanders and the California red-legged frog.
In March 2010, for the first time in a century, a baby condor chick was born at Pinnacles. It was the monument’s first nest in 100 years – although the area was once frequented by this species whose wingspan can surpass 9 feet.
Legislation for Pinnacles to become a National Park was first introduced in 2009 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Sam Farr (D-Carmel). Senator Boxer then introduced a companion bill last year but the bill did not advance beyond a Senate hearing.
The 2011 bill would also rename the Pinnacles Wilderness the Hain Wilderness in honor of brothers, Arthur and Schuyler Hain, early homesteaders in the area. Their tireless efforts led to the initial 1908 designation of Pinnacles as a National Monument.