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House clears addition to protected coastal area

The House on Monday approved expansion of the California Coastal National Monument north of San Francisco, adding about 1,255 acres to “this jewel of California’s North Coast,” the area’s congressman said.

Once the bill clears Congress and is signed into law by President Obama, as expected, the Mendocino County site would be the first onshore addition to the monument, established in 2000 by President Clinton to protect small islands, reefs, rocks and pinnacles off California’s coast.

“By providing lasting national protection, we’re making the California Coastal National Monument more accessible to visitors and we’re raising the visibility of 1,200 acres of spectacular Mendocino County coastline,” said the bill’s sponsor, freshman Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael).

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The expansion, he told colleagues, also would boost the region’s tourism economy.

The measure passed the House on a voice vote. A similar bill sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California is awaiting Senate action.

Republicans have been critical of President Obama’s creation of national monuments when Washington has a backlog of unfunded park maintenance projects. But most of the land in the proposed expansion is already owned by the federal government and the expansion would not have a significant effect on the federal budget. The measure also provides for current activities, such as grazing, to continue.

The area contains several riparian corridors, extensive wetlands, pine forests, meadows, coastal prairie and sand dunes.

“Dramatic blow holes and waterfalls cascading into the sea complement these natural resources,” a Bureau of Land Management official said.

It includes habit for endangered species, including the Point Arena mountain beaver and the Behren’s silverspot butterfly.

Scott Schneider, president and chief executive of Visit Mendocino County, said at the House hearing earlier this year that the expansion was crucial to a county that relies on tourism.

“This monument is one of the most viewed and yet least recognized national monuments in the entire country,” he said. “Expanding the designation onto land would provide countless visitors with a new opportunity to better access and better understand this incredibly scenic and unique national monument.”

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richard.simon@latimes.com


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