Credit: Jim Rose. View of Cedar Roughs Wilderness from across nearby Pope Canyon.
President Obama gives America three new monuments
One of California’s lesser- known natural gems, the area known as Berryessa Snow Mountain has just been protected as a national monument by President Barack Obama! This is fantastic news after a decade of hard work by The Wilderness Society, local communities and supporters like you.
President Obama officially designated the monument on Friday July 10, 2015 along with the Basin and Range National Monument (Nevada) and Waco Mammoth National Monument (Texas).
Americans who will have 3 new places added to their park system and local communities who will benefit economically from increased tourism.
America's new monuments
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, California
Photo: The Cedar Roughs Wilderness lies near the southern end of the new monument area, just to the west of Lake Berryessa. Despite notoriously inhospitable soil, it is home to a stunning variety of plants that have adapted to the local conditions.
This area stretches from the region around Lake Berryessa across remote sections of Cache Creek north to Snow Mountain. It is renowned locally for its outdoor recreation opportunities and abundant wildlife like tule elk, mountain lions and bald eagles. It contains habitat ranging from lush oak woodland to clear creeks and fields of wildflowers.
Monument designation will help provide a unified plan for managing Berryessa Snow Mountain.Under the current arrangement, tracts of land fall under the jurisdiction of two different federal agencies, but monument status could compel them to develop a joint strategy.
It will also raise the region’s profile as a destination for tourists and recreationists. A study commissioned by the chamber of commerce of Winters, a town adjacent to the new monument, found that monument status, and the resultant increase in exposure and visitation, could boost the local economy by up to $50 million over five years.
Local support spurred permanent protection
Berryessa Snow Mountain has been a popular candidate for permanent protection for years. Local businesses have lent their support for monument status, and the boards of supervisors of all five counties that comprise the proposed monument have endorsed the idea. Similarly, attendees of a public meeting in California in Dec. 2014 overwhelmingly backed monument designation.
But despite support in the region, efforts to protect Berryessa Snow Mountain in Congress had trouble gaining traction.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) repeatedly advocated for legislation to protect the area, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) took up the cause as well, to no avail. In the absence of legislative progress, The Wilderness Society made good use of the voices of you, our members, and asked the White House to take action.
Now, buoyed by support from Californians and nature-lovers across the country, President Obama is following the example of presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush and will act to preserve Berryessa Snow Mountain for future generations.
Basin and Range National Monument
At the heart of the Basin and Range in Nevada are the Garden and Coal Valleys in south central Nevada, surrounded by eight mountain ranges. The area is distinguished by its pristine condition.
The monument designation will preserve slices of prehistoric and pioneer life –from 13,000 year old spear points to pioneer ranching and mining sites. It will also ensure continued access to these areas for hunting, grazing and outdoor recreation.
Like the other two designations, monument status for Waco has garnered support from business leaders in the state who understand recognition and visibility for Waco can help grow the tourism economy of Nevada.
Photo: Tyler Roemer, courtesy of Conservation Lands Foundation
Waco Mammoth National Monument
The Waco-Mammoth site in Texas contains one of the largest known North American concentrations of Pleistocene mammoths and will become the latest addition to the National Park System.
Halfway between Dallas and Austin, the 107-acre site was discovered in 1978 and contains at least 24 mammoths, most of which were infant or young mammoths that perished in a catastrophic flood while being protected by adult members of the herd.
Waco is an American treasure, providing a glimpse into North America’s past.
The Waco site, which already attracts 20,000 visitors a year including large groups of schoolchildren, is poised to become an even more recognized educational and tourism destination.
Photo: The Waco Mammoth site, National Park Service.
Economic benefits created by monuments
National parks and monuments have positive impacts on neighboring economies. Monument designation poises special American areas to become tourist destinations, boosting local outdoor recreation economies.
A recent economic study found that designation as a national monument could generate a gain of $26 million for the local economy over five years. Recreation in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region already supports more than 300 jobs.
Monuments and the Antiquities Act--a bipartisan tradition
The presidential authority to designate national monuments falls under the Antiquities Act of 1906, a law used on a bipartisan basis for more than a century to protect landmarks as varied as the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty.
With the three new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act 19 times, protecting 17 brand-new national monuments and expanding two others.
Photo: Grand Canyon National Park started as a national monument. Photo by NPS.
Take a look at what makes Berryessa Snow Mountain special and thank the president for protecting it as a national monument.
Credit: Jim Rose.
Just a short drive from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento, Berryessa Snow Mountain is highlighted by lush forests and meadows. It has been the subject of multiple bills aimed at creating a national conservation area stretching from south of the Cedar Rough Wilderness, near Putah Creek, northwest to the Snow Mountain Wilderness, stitching together many parcels of public land.
Credit: Jim Rose.
In addition to its great natural beauty, Berryessa Snow Mountain contains habitat for wildlife including tule elk, mountain lions, osprey, bald eagles, golden eagles and a variety of amphibians.
Credit: © Kevin Macko, flickr.
Near the northern tip of the new monument lies the 60,000-acre Snow Mountain Wilderness, where California’s North Coast Ranges, parallel mountain chains, taper into the lower valley foothills. Deep canyons buffet the wilderness, creating a biological “island” with vegetation ranging from red fir and Ponderosa pine, at high elevations, to chaparral and oak, all mingled with habitat for mountain lions, bald eagles and other species.
Credit: Jeffrey Veen, flickr.
Protected by Congress in 1984, Snow Mountain Wilderness is considered a premier destination for those seeking an uncrowded backpacking experience, and contains about 40 miles of trails.
Credit: B W, flickr.
The Snow Mountain Wilderness lies within Mendocino National Forest, a large chunk of which makes up the newly-designated monument. The forest, about 65 miles from top to bottom and 35 miles across, contains parts of three other wilderness areas and wildlife habitat for bears, northern spotted owl, steelhead trout and many other species.
Credit: Bob Wick (BLM), flickr.
One of the best-known stretches of Berryessa Snow Mountain is Cache Creek Wilderness, which was protected in 2006. Terrain here ranges from the steep canyon that buffets the area’s eponymous creek, to grassy, oak-studded meadows to chaparral hills.
The wilderness and broader Cache Creek Natural Area are popular for hiking, hunting, fishing, wildlife-watching and rafting (in the namesake Cache Creek, naturally). Greater protections, and the added visibility that a national monument designation brings, would help boost the area’s outdoor recreation economy.