Celebrating the Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument

By Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

Image On March 11, 2014 President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to issue a proclamation adding the 1665-acre Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument, allowing the Monument to “walk on shore” (in the words of California Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Kenna) for the first time.

Under the management of the BLM Ukiah field office since 2004, Point Arena-Stornetta is located on Mendocino County’s south coast adjacent to Manchester State Beach and the Point Arena Lighthouse. It includes more than two miles of Pacific coastline with natural bridges, tide pools, waterfalls, sinkholes and blowholes, as well as two miles of the Garcia River, the Garcia estuary, a quarter-mile of beach adjacent to Manchester State Park, and a five-acre island called Sea Island Rocks. The area is recognized not only for breathtaking scenic values, but also for outstanding natural resources that include riparian corridors, extensive coastal wetlands, wind-sculptured stands of cypress, wildflower-strewn meadows, and shifting sand dunes, a varied ecosystem which taken as a whole provides significant wildlife habitat. Otters and seals gambol in the surf, brown pelicans sail by in characteristic single file, and countless gulls and shorebirds call the area home. ImageOverwhelming public enthusiasm for adding this spectacular area to the Monument was obvious last November, when a standing-room-only crowd of at least 300 people crammed into the diminutive Point Arena city hall to welcome Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Congressman Jared Huffman, BLM Deputy Director Neil Kornze, and countless other federal, state, and local dignitaries.  When Secretary Jewell asked if she should recommend that the President give Point Arena-Stornetta Monument status, every hand in the room reached towards the sky (including her own).

On March 12, the day after the Presidential declaration, Secretary Jewell came back to the coast to join numerous other agency officials, representatives of Congressmen Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman, local tribal members, and many community activists in a day of rejoicing at the culmination of so many years of collaborative effort.

Hundreds of people gathered on a headland under a bright blue sky full of wheeling gulls and before a backdrop of crashing surf to hug, cheer, applaud, wave flags and listen to a succession of speakers marvel at the place, and to affirm the solidarity of the community in making this achievement possible.

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Members of the Point Arena/Manchester Band of Pomo Indians opened the gathering with a prayer and dances, and students from Pacific Community Charter School closed it by singing “This Land is Your Land.”

In between Secretary Jewell pointed out that “great places drive local economies” and “it takes a village to make a monument.” She also mentioned President Obama’s belief in our “moral obligation to leave these lands better than we found them,” and along with Mike Boots of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality referred to the President’s fulfillment of his State of the Union promise to “use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

This was a day of pure joy, a celebration of a spectacular landscape, of the communities that cherish its wonders, and of the most admirable attributes of this our nation.

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Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visits Stornetta

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by Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

On November 8 the California coast put on a tremendous show to welcome Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell: the sun was shining, surf pounding, blowholes spouting, and humpback whales breaching.

Secretary Jewell came to Point Arena to hold a town hall meeting to discuss the community’s vision for the permanent protection of this outstandingly scenic area, and specifically to get their reactions to the proposal to add the Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument, a proposal that the Sierra Club strongly supports.  In July the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1411, Representative Jared Huffman’s bill enabling the Monument to “Expand onto the Land,” and S. 61, a companion bill sponsored by both of California’s Senators is under consideration in the other chamber.

Public enthusiasm for this idea was demonstrated by a standing-room-only crowd of at least 300 people who crammed into the diminutive Point Arena city hall to welcome the secretary, Congressman Huffman, and BLM Deputy Director Neil Kornze, and countless other federal, state, and local dignitaries. Members of the Point Arena/Manchester Band of Pomo Indians opened the gathering with a prayer and a dance, followed by students from Pacific Community Charter reading their own poetry and singing “This Land is Your Land.” In response, Secretary Jewell thanked the Stornetta family for their stewardship and vision, and went on to recognize that “communities know lands that are special, lands that have nurtured people for thousands of years. “ When she asked for a show of hands on recommending that the President use his powers under the Antiquities Act to add Stornetta to the Monument should Congress fail to act, the expression of support was instantaneous and unanimous — including that of the secretary herself, whose hand reached towards the sky.

Despite the remote location, several dozen Sierra Club representatives attended this inspiring event, including Redwood Chapter Conservation Chair Diane Beck, Mendocino coastal activist Linda Perkins, Deputy Program Director Michael Bosse, and national Wildlands Committee member Angel Martinez. I had the privilege of appearing at the podium on behalf of the Chapter to thank Secretary Jewell for visiting the North Coast, express the Club’s enthusiastic support for the permanent protection of the Point Arena-Stornetta area by including it in the monument, and present her with 1800 signatures on a support petition that the Club had circulated in an online campaign.

Next step: we’re all looking forward to making another journey to the Mendocino coast for the dedication ceremonies.