North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman on Tuesday introduced a bill that would add 1,255 acres of rugged Mendocino coastline to an existing national monument that runs the length of California.
The California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act of 2013 is Huffman's first bill as a U.S. congressman since assuming his post in January.
It aims to exploit what the San Rafael Democrat calls a "unique opportunity" to provide permanent protection for the Garcia River estuary and surrounding property, to enhance recreational opportunities on the North Coast, and to boost the area's economy.
The bill would add the 1,132-acre Stornetta Public Lands to the national monument, as well as a smaller, 123-acre portion of the nearby Cypress Abbey Ranch, both currently owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
If given monument status, the area will become "a must-see stop for tourists," Huffman predicted.
"It's a brand that makes a tremendous difference economically for the community in addition to that higher level of protection," Huffman said in a recent interview. "While there are gorgeous, spectacular places up and down the North Coast, they're not as accessible as this one."
The Stornetta Public Lands, acquired by the public in 2004 and overseen by BLM, runs south from Manchester State Park and the Point Arena Lighthouse along a little more than two miles of breathtaking coastline. What's called Cypress Abbey Phase I is located closer to the town of Point Arena, on the southern edge of privately owned property the Trust for Public Land still hopes to procure and add to the monument.
The properties would provide key extensions to the California Coastal Trail, which supporters hope will eventually run uninterrupted for 10 to 12 miles from Irish Beach to Point Arena, said Richard Burn, field manager with the BLM.
Huffman is among numerous Mendocino Coast environmental stewards and business people lobbying for inclusion of the Stornetta lands into what otherwise is a marine monument comprising 1,100 miles of rock formations, islands, reefs and pinnacles from the Oregon border to Mexico.
His bill, H.R. 1411, is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who offered similar legislation last year. California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein introduced a companion bill earlier this year.
Area lawmakers also have asked President Barack Obama to use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to add the former ranch property to the coastal monument.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or email@example.com.