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White House declares Berryessa-Snow Mountain national monument

President Barack Obama is designating the Berryessa Snow Mountain area as a national monument, permanently protecting the rolling mountainous region that runs through Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Solano and Yolo counties.

Federal protections announced early Friday in Washington for the Berryessa-Snow Mountain area cover 331,000 acres. The move, hailed as a major win for environmental activists and Northern California lawmakers who have long pushed for conservation measures in the region, is expected to preserve sensitive plant and animal habitat, as well as spur millions of dollars a year in economic activity.

“It deserves to be protected for future generations,” said Sara Husby-Good, executive director of Tuleyome, a nonprofit aimed at protecting the lands. “It’s a really great area.”

Other conservation groups have applauded efforts to preserve the region, including the Wilderness Society, a national conservation group, describing the “sweeping oak-dotted hills, creeks and meadows” as “premier wildlife habitat that has rapidly disappeared in California.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, has also praised future economic benefits, pointing out that its protection will “help boost tourism, grow the local economy, improve recreation opportunities and protect species.”

The White House highlighted economic and ecosystem benefits that come with federal protections, saying that the national monument will “boost local economies by attracting visitors and generating more revenue and jobs for local communities.”

Two other areas also received protection, including the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas and the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada.

The Berryessa-Snow Mountain designation is expected to generate $26 million to $50 million in local economic activity over the next five years, according to estimates by the Winters Chamber of Commerce. Tourism is also expected to rise 20 to 30 percent.

Bald eagles, black bears and mountain lions roam the region, which also affords humans places for hiking, mountain biking, camping and whitewater rafting. Hunting and fishing would continue to be allowed in the national monument, along with existing grazing and motorized vehicle trails, officials said.

The site, which was already owned by the federal government, will be jointly managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or angela.hart@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ahartreports. Staff Writers Guy Kovner and Glenda Anderson ?contributed to this report.

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