The White House plans to designate a 331,000-acre swath of rivers, rocks, mountains and diverse species habitats in California’s inner Coast Range as a national monument, one of several actions President Obama has taken during his second term to bolster his environmental legacy without cooperation from Congress.
The Berryessa Snow Mountain is one of three monuments Obama plans to anoint Friday, along with the Waco Mammoth Site in Texas, which includes remains of 22 Columbian mammoths, and the Basin and Range area in Nevada, which includes rock art dating back 4,000 years, according to a White House memo.
The Berryessa designation follows a campaign from a Northern California preservation group called Tuleyome, which built support from hunters, off-road vehicle users and other interest groups by promising they would not advocate new restrictions on the recreation area.
“It’s really a unique treasure that deserves to be protected for current and future generations,” said Sara Husby-Good, the group’s executive director. “We want people to explore it and enjoy it.”
Husby-Good said the key benefit to monument status would be prompting the two federal agencies that oversee the area — the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service — to cooperate on a specific preservation plan to combat the effects of climate change and other environmental threats, including the northern migration of plant life.
She said she hoped the designation would spur more visitors to Berryessa, which connects three wilderness areas and is a popular winter habitat for bald eagles.
Because of its proximity to Sacramento and the Bay Area, Berryessa is a popular spot for hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking and rafting.
Federal designation also will protect cultural sites of Native Americans, who lived in the area for at least 11,000 years.
Tuleyome had initially sought congressional action to designate a conservation area, but could not get the bills to move beyond committee. The group saw an opportunity with Obama’s promise to expand his use of executive authority, a tactic that has drawn criticism from Republicans who say he is thwarting the congressional process.
Obama has been unbowed. The three newest designations will place more than 1 million acres under monument status.
The White House memo, which outlined the most recent plans, said that Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 19 national monuments. Among them: 350,000 acres of national forest land designated in October as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.