President Obama expands existing wildlands protections in Oregon and California, and pays tribute to the civil rights movement with new national monument designations

Jan 13, 2017

Cotoni-Coast Dairies (California)

Mason Cummings/TWS
Crucial water resources, wildlife areas, outdoor recreation, historical and cultural sites are protected by new national monument designations.

In what may be his final executive action protecting public lands and important cultural and historic sites shared by the American people, President Obama has expanded the existing California Coastal and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monuments and preserved three iconic locations associated with the nation’s the civil rights movement.

Paying tribute to inclusivity and America’s historic struggles for equality, the president designated the Birmingham Civil Rights, Freedom Riders and Reconstruction Era national monuments. Two-thirds of America’s more than 400 national parks are sites dedicated to cultural and historical significance. All three of the new civil rights national monuments recognize crucial events and turning points in American history.

The newly-protected areas along the California Coast and in southern Oregon are home to important wildlife habitat, sources of clean air and water, historic and cultural sites, as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation. “These national monument expansions are an investment in our environment and an acknowledgement that healthy communities need access to nature and outdoor activity. Our shared lands and waters sustain the remarkable quality of life and economy of the West. We are grateful to President Obama and the forward-thinking members of Congress who advocated for protecting these national treasures,” said Dan Smuts, Senior Director – Pacific Region of The Wilderness Society.

In California, six iconic locations along the state’s 1100-mile coastline will be added to the California Coastal National Monument. Previously, the monument lay almost completely offshore - viewable only through binoculars. Now six breathtaking and accessible sites are included:

  • Trinidad Head (Humboldt County) a 60-acre stretch of rocky headland, featuring a lighthouse and spectacular views of rock formations off the shoreline
  • The Lost Coast Headlands (Humboldt County) coastal bluffs south of the mouth of the Eel River, with freshwater creeks and ponds, grasslands, coastal scrub, and woodland
  • Lighthouse Ranch (Humboldt County) offering panoramic views of the Eel River Delta, the South Spit of Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean
  • Cotoni-Coast Dairies (Santa Cruz County) home to Native American archaeological sites and rare species, including the California red-legged frog and peregrine falcon
  • Piedras Blancas (San Luis Obispo County) a renowned marine mammal research area and Native American cultural site, also famous for its historic lighthouse
  • Rocks and Islands (Orange County) including geologic formations that provide important roosting habitat for cormorants, brown pelicans and other seabirds, as well as a unique place where seals and sea lions can temporarily take to the land (known as “haul-out” areas)

In Oregon, the existing Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was the first monument designated specifically to preserve biodiversity.  Within its boundaries lie several distinct types of terrain, ranging from grassland to mixed conifer and white fir forests. Wildlife in the area includes elk, bobcats, river otters and about 200 different bird species.

But climate change and other man-made pressures are stressing the plants and animals that call these ranges home; and without broad, connected wildlands, they will have a harder time finding the resources they need to survive. The expanded national monument will encompass a broader Cascade-Siskiyou region, and help fill in a patchwork of various federal jurisdictions, bridging the gap between Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service land, and preserving connected corridors, so that wildlife can migrate to find the right food, water and other resources to survive an era of warming temperatures.

Expanding protections within the Cascade-Siskiyou region will also help to ensure that outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities remain accessible to visitors – including: Pilot Rock, the basalt stub of an ancient volcano that is popular among technical rock-climbers; 19 miles of the hallowed Pacific Crest Trail, ready for hikers of all experience levels; hunting and angling; and, in the winter, cross-country skiing and other seasonal sports.  

President Obama expanded both monuments and designated the new civil rights national monuments using his executive power under the Antiquities Act. Championed and signed into law in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents – eight Republicans and eight Democrats – to establish national monuments. A critical conservation tool, the Antiquities Act allows presidents to protect lands and waters already owned by the American people. Local collaboration and community input remain at the forefront of the national monument designation process.


The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 700,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.


Matt Keller, National Monuments Campaign Director, (970) 946-0906,
Dan Smuts, Senior Director, Pacific Region, (415) 398-1111 x108,