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House votes to add two miles of Mendocino coast to national monument

  • Cows graze along the Stornetta Public Lands, north of Point Arena on Friday, March 22, 2013. (PD FILE, 2013)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Monday to add more than two miles of stunning Mendocino coastline to the California Coastal National Monument.

Monday's vote to pass the bill backed by Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, brings the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands a significant step closer to achieving monument status.

As a national monument, the lands would benefit from stricter protections for the delicate coast ecosystem as well as greater access to money for improvements and management.

The next hurdle will take place in the U.S. Senate. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced companion legislation that will face committee and floor votes.

“I'm thrilled that the House has agreed to protect this jewel of the North Coast for future generations,” Huffman said in a statement. “This is a spectacular stretch of coastline, and it deserves the highest level of protection we can provide.”

The passage of the bill, called the California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act of 2013, would provide the first mainland addition to an existing monument encompassing 1,100 miles of coastal rock formations, pinnacles and reefs along the entire California coastline.

The property to be added includes the 1,132-acre Stornetta Public Lands and a 123-acre portion of the nearby Cypress Abbey Ranch, which are both currently run by the Bureau of Land Management.

The addition would provide “that link for everyone that they have physically been on and touched the California Coastal Monument,” said Richard Burns, Bureau of Land Management field manager.

The area includes critical habitat for salmon and steelhead, the Garcia Estuary, a two-mile stretch of the Garcia River and it would add 10 miles to the California Coastal Trail.

“You've literally got this whole stretch from Point Arena to Irish beach that is all protected lands for the public to use,” Burns said.

As a national monument, the property would be more competitive among candidates for public funds to make needed improvements that promote better access, such as permanent bathrooms.

Monday's vote was a boon for the freshman lawmaker.

The bill was the first Huffman introduced since he assumed his post as a Congressman in January and it and passed in a Republican-controlled House.

The act was originally pushed last year by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, before the boundaries of his district changed.

Thompson praised Monday's vote in a statement released Monday.

“We need to keep working and make sure the Senate passes legislation that preserves this wonderful stretch of coastline for our children and grandchildren,” Thompson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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