Stretch of Mendocino coastline could get national monument status

  • Lisa Joakimides walks along the Stornetta Public Lands, north of Point Arena on Friday, March 22, 2013. Joakimides is a supporter of a move to expand the California Coastal National Monument to include the mainland property in the otherwise marine monument. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

A move to add more than two miles of breathtaking south Mendocino coastline to the California Coastal National Monument — providing a mainland toe-hold for what is otherwise a protected off-shore marine area — is gaining momentum.

Advocates are actively pursuing extending national monument status to the 1,132-acre Stornetta Public Lands in Point Arena either through legislation or executive decision.

One way or another, they're working to ensure the federally owned property — with its chiseled cliffs, blow holes, waterfalls and awe-inspiring vistas — gains the added protection and visibility that would come with national monument standing.

"It just raises the level of care that the property gets, and public access, to an entirely new level," said Winston Bowen, president of the Mendocino Land Trust.

"To my knowledge, there is no known opposition to this," said Richard Burns, field manager with the Bureau of Land Management.

Visitors already are free to hike the former Stornetta Brothers Coastal Ranch under a $7.8 million conservation deal struck in 2004 that converted the property to federal ownership under the jurisdiction of the BLM.

Monument status would entail improved access to money for purposes such trail development and maintenance, or possibly permanent bathrooms, as well as a higher level of protection for wildlife and habitat, advocates said.

The Stornetta family continues to graze cattle on the acreage under a 10-year lease set to expire next year. A conservation easement on an additional 600 acres or so prohibits development while entitling the Stornetta family to run cattle and grow row crops there.

The public portion sustains important wildlife habitat that makes it an ecological gem, in part because of a two-mile stretch of the Garcia River and estuary that winds through, providing breeding grounds for threatened steelhead, chinook and endangered coho salmon. A coastal upwelling off the mouth of the river provides rich feeding grounds for the resulting juvenile fish, as well as other marine wildlife.

The property also hosts populations of the Point Arena Mountain Beaver and Behren's silverspot butterfly, both endangered; seals and sea lions; and an abundance of birds and other animals. It offers a varied landscape of wetland, riparian corridor, grassy meadows, cypress groves and windswept bluffs.

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