SAN FRANCISCO — Interior Secretary
Jewell said the logjam on Capitol Hill has created a conservation backlog, and she warned that the Obama administration would not "hold its breath forever" waiting for lawmakers to act.
"The president will not hesitate," Jewell said in an interview in San Francisco last week. "I can tell you that there are places that are ripe for setting aside, with a tremendous groundswell of public support."
Congress has not added any acreage to the national park or wilderness systems since 2010. Jewell blamed ramped-up rhetoric in Washington for the impasse. She said the appetite for preserving American historic and cultural sites remains high but some officials seek to avoid the appearance of publicly embracing more government protection.
Jewell, who has been on the job scarcely six months, came to California to promote several intiatives and tour a site that could be added to a national monument along the Mendocino coast.
She began with a meet and greet at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On a bright day with gulls wheeling against a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge — the velvety green Marin headlands in the distance — Jewell stood in one of the nation's most-visited national parks and made the case for the value of public lands.
Among the public events on Jewell's schedule was a visit to the 1,255-acre Stornetta Public Lands site on the Mendocino County coast, north of Point Arena. Several members of the California congressional delegation have proposed adding the site to the California Coastal National Monument.
It's one of many pending federal bills that would conserve land in California. One bill would expand the boundary of
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has proposed sweeping legislation that would add thousands of acres to Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks and the
The conservation community has a long list of places that it believes require protection, but activists complain that with
"It's been nearly impossible to figure out how to get more funding for conservation work, whether it's just getting money to run agencies or getting full funding for the Land and Water
Brengel said Jewell's willingness to recommend that Obama act unilaterally, using powers granted to presidents under the Antiquities Act of 1906, gives hope to conservationists who see the administration as indifferent to environmental issues.
"The take-away is she's kind of teed herself up to make those recommendations to the president," Brengel said. "They are capable of making decisions on conservation. They just haven't made many of them."
The Antiquities Act gives presidents authority to name new monuments — a power generally residing with Congress. Presidents going back to
But use of the act in recent years has sparked strong protest. Most notabley was President Clinton's decision to designate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah in 1996, putting one of the nation's largest coal reserves off limits to mining.
Utah lawmakers, led by then-Gov.
Cinton used the Antiquities Act more than any other president. Obama has used the law to designate nine new monuments, focusing mainly on historic sites such as the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, the