Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Obama to expand protections along Calif. coast

President Obama tomorrow will add 1,665 acres of public lands to the California Coastal National Monument, a signal that the White House is seeking to protect more lands as conservation bills stall in Congress. Obama will sign the monument proclamation tomorrow, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will visit with community members Wednesday to celebrate the designation. It comes weeks after Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to "protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations" (E&E Daily, Jan. 29). Conservationists praised the move, saying it sends a powerful message to Congress to pass more locally supported, bipartisan conservation bills -- or the president will do so with his pen. "This action is as important for the protection it gives California's coastline as it is for the message it sends to Congress: The president is determined to act on his commitment to protecting America's public lands for future generations," said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress and a former Interior Department aide during Obama's first term. "With dozens of parks and wilderness bills stalled for years in Congress, the president is right to use his authority to help communities protect the lands and waters they love." While Congress could pass additional standalone conservation bills -- a House committee recently advanced a pair of wilderness bills in Nevada -- moving sizable public lands packages in an election year could be a political tall task. Lee-Ashley said approximately 2.9 million acres have been permanently protected during the Obama administration, compared to 7.3 million acres leased for oil and gas companies. Obama has declared or expanded 10 monuments encompassing just under 300,000 acres. Clinton designated 19 monuments and expanded three more, protecting more than 6 million acres -- not including the California Coastal monument -- according to federal records. Conservation groups are hopeful that Obama will designate more landscape-scale monuments in his second term, including the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, the Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho and the Greater Canyonlands in Utah...more

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