Close to Home: Berryessa Snow Mountain should be a national monument

During his tenure President Barack Obama has designated 13 national monuments, and the next one on his list should be California’s Berryessa Snow Mountain. Berryessa Snow Mountain is a national treasure - the region’s natural beauty, cultural history and economic significance place it among the most special places in the country - and it should be permanently protected.

Stretching nearly 100 miles from north to south, the Berryessa region is a hidden gem of Northern California’s wild Inner Coast Ranges, home to a wide variety of California wildlife, including mountain lions, bears, deer, osprey, native trout, bald eagles and elusive Pacific fishers. The region is also teeming with blue oak woodlands, red fir forests and unique plants found nowhere else on Earth. At least four linguistically distinct Native American tribes lived within the region, with ancient archaeological sites included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Permanent protection for the Berryessa Snow Mountain region isn’t just good for the environment and wildlife, it’s also good for the economy. The outdoor recreation industry supports more than 400,000 California jobs and generates $46 billion of economic activity in the Golden State annually. Berryessa Snow Mountain is an outdoor wonderland loaded with recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike.

I’ve been lucky to experience this incredible area firsthand, from admiring rare butterflies high atop Goat Mountain in the Mendocino National Forest to Walker Ridge’s amazing spring wildflower display; watching Tule elk roaming the oak woodlands near Highway 20 and cooling off in Cache Creek’s clear waters. This area truly has something for everyone.

Studies have consistently demonstrated the benefits that protected public lands bring to local economies. Counties with protected public lands have been more successful at sustaining property values, attracting high wage employers and securing entrepreneurial investment. Protecting our special places like Berryessa Snow Mountain encourages tourism, supports local businesses and creates desirable places to live and work.

It is critical that Obama designate Berryessa Snow Mountain as a national monument to permanently protect its unique treasures. The president should follow in the footsteps of his predecessors who have used the authority granted by the Antiquities Act, enacted by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, to proclaim “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest” as national monuments.

It’s no wonder that all five counties that comprise the region have passed resolutions supporting its designation as a national monument, and more than 200 business and 65,000 individuals and businesses have advocated for its permanent protection. National monuments recognize and protect cultural and ecological wonders all over the United States for future generations. Berryessa Snow Mountain should be among them.

Pamela Flick is California representative with Defenders of Wildlife, based in Sacramento.

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