New bill would expand the California Coastal National Monument

A rocky formation in Piedras Blancas, one of the sites suggested for inclusion in the existing California Coastal National Monument.

Credit: BLM, flickr.

Legislation introduced Aug. 5 would expand the existing California Coastal National Monument, protecting land in several iconic locations along the coastline.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), would add federally owned land in six iconic locations to the California Coastal National Monument - first established in 2000 and previously expanded by President Barack Obama in 2014.

A look back: President Obama expands California Coastal National Monument

If enacted, the bill would provide permanent protection to breathtaking landscapes including grasslands, redwood forests and historic lighthouses, and preserve crucial habitat for seabirds, seals, sea lions and other wildlife.

“This is a big step forward,” said Dan Smuts, California senior regional director at The Wilderness Society. “Expanding the national monument would bring lasting protection to these exceptional places, better public access, improved recreational opportunities and more tourism dollars to nearby businesses.”

Among the proposed expansion sites:

  • Trinidad Head (Humboldt County) is a 60-acre stretch of rocky headland jutting into Trinidad Harbor, featuring a lighthouse and spectacular views of sea stacks -- tough, erosion-resistant rock formations off the shoreline. The area has been culturally significant to local Native American communities for hundreds of years.
  • The Lost Coast Headlands (Humboldt County) features a Cold War-era Navy surveillance post and a variety of plant and wildlife habitat covering the coastal bluffs south of the mouth of the Eel River. Here you can find grasslands, coastal scrub, woodland and several freshwater creeks and ponds.
  • Lighthouse Ranch (Humboldt County) offers exceptional panoramic views of the Eel River Delta, the South Spit of Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The historic Table Bluff light station, for which Lighthouse Ranch is named, first opened in 1892. The station and its iconic fog signal building have been removed, but the area is still a popular tourist site.
  • Cotoni-Coast Dairies (Santa Cruz County) is the former site of a dairy, cement plant and concrete quarry - and now an important coastal foothill habitat for species including the rare California red-legged frog and peregrine falcon. Adjacent waters are home to wildlife like gray whales, sea otters and harbor seals.
  • Piedras Blancas (San Luis Obispo County) is a renowned scientific research area, also famous for its historic lighthouse. It is home to a variety of marine mammals, including sea otters, dolphins, whales and elephant seals. Native Chumash and Salinan tribes hold cultural ties to this stretch of extraordinary rocky shoreline and varied landscape.
  • Rocks and islands (Orange County) includes rocks, small islands and other geologic formations that provide important roosting habitat for  cormorants, brown pelicans and other seabirds. This is also a unique place where seals and sea lions can temporarily take to the land (known as “haul-out” areas).

In March 2014, President Obama added about 1,665 acres to the California Coastal National Monument, to the north of the town of Point Arena, in the first land-based expansion. The so-called “Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands” had been the focus of conservation efforts in Congress for many years, including attempts by Sen. Boxer and  Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). The new areas under consideration for inclusion in the monument have similarly been offered up in Congress for years. We hope this bill will finally deliver the protection they deserve!

Stay tuned for news on this important effort!

The old fog signal building at Piedras Blancas. Credit: Howard Ignatius, flickr.

Elephant seals at Piedras Blancas, one of several sites in the proposed expansion that is home to marine mammals. Credit: Elizabeth Haslam, flickr. 

Lighthouse at Piedras Blancas. Credit: BLM, flickr.