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Point Arena hopes interior secretary likes what she sees

  • U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the Stornetta Public Lands in Mendocino County on Friday. Residents of the area hope the visit will bolster the lands' chances of being included in the California Coastal National Monument. (Conner Jay / PD)

On a perfect warm and sunny day at the edge of the continent, even a pod of humpback whales that breached repeatedly offshore seemed to be conspiring to showcase the spectacular coastline that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell had come to see.

Like the stickers worn by many gathered round hoping to win Jewell's support for expansion of the California Coastal National Monument onto land, it was if the whales themselves were urging, “Yes.”

A three-hour hike with local conservation leaders, government officials and Bureau of Land Management personnel took Jewell along chiseled ledges overlooking cliffs and craggy seastacks in the surf, then down to the water's edge below a rock wall over which incoming waves crashed perilously close, in view of curious harbor seals.

Interior Secretary Visits Mendocino Coast

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At a two-hour meeting in a packed City Hall, she was feted by more than 300 schoolchildren and adults, unanimous in their enthusiasm to have the land she had just walked become part of the 1,100-mile marine monument.

Jewell, by her inclusion of the tiny community of about 450 people in a brief cross-country trip touting the president's commitment to land conservation, made it clear her department has a profound interest in the future of the 1,664 acres proposed for inclusion in the monument.

She reiterated the president's pledge to act when Congress does not to set aside and preserve unique, deserving lands for future generations, imparting a palpable sense of hope that had many in the audience talking in terms of “when, not if,” the land was included in the national monument.

But it is, Jewell said, beyond her power to commit to an executive proclamation bringing the Stornetta Public Lands on Point Arena's doorstep into the 13-year-old national monument.

She added, “I wouldn't be out here if it wasn't a high priority.”

Jewell's visit to this hamlet on the southern Mendocino Coast caps a decade of collaborative action to preserve a more than 2-mile stretch of coast now owned by the public through a series of land purchases beginning in 2004.

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