The Obama administration is planning to designate around 1,600 acres in California and 500,000 acres in New Mexico as national monument, sidestepping Congress to provide federal conservation protections for the land, according to news reports.
The California land, known as the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, is located along the Mendocino County coastline just north of the town of Point Arena. It includes over two miles of coastline, the estuary of the Garcia River and adjacent beach, and a small island accessible during low tide. The area features important wildlife habitat, several riparian corridors, extensive wetlands, ponds and other water sources, cypress groves, meadows and sand dunes.
In Utah, he is planning to set aside 500,000-acres of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region near Las Cruces, New Mexico, which would be twice as large as the largest national monument he’s estabished so far. The Organ mountains, a range of tall, jagged peaks also called the Sierra de Los Organos, are today the backdrop to the community of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
A National Monument is essentially the same thing as a National Park, except that a U.S. president has the power to declare a place a monument without asking Congress.
In his State of the Union speech Obama said he would use his authority “to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.” With these two new monuments, his administration seems to be exploring a bolder public-lands policy that that of his previous term in office, which disappointed may conservation and recreation groups.