By Neil Farrell
County Supervisors have lent their support in an effort to have a local coastal light station included in an existing national monument.
Owned by the Federal Bureau of Land Management, the 20-acre Piedras Blancas Light Station includes the historic lighthouse and surrounding acres and lies on the coast several miles north of San Simeon. The light station includes four buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the lighthouse has been in continuous operation since 1875.
According to the Supervisors’ Resolution, “The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 designated the 20-acre Piedras Blancas Historic Light Station as the Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area, and by the same act authorized The U. S. Department of the Interior to contract with owners of adjacent lands to extend to those properties the same designation and federal protections without requiring transfer of land to the federal government.”
Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have bills pending that would expand the existing California Coastal National Monument, which includes more than 20,000 rocks, islands, exposed reefs, and pinnacles along the California Coast.
The State Parks Department, County, volunteers and the BLM are all on board with the new designation. The monument status would further protect the area’s “historic, cultural and natural treasures,” including miles of coastline, a world-famous elephant seal rookery, estuaries, riparian wetlands, dunes, fields of native plants, hundreds of bird species and marine mammals, including grey whales migrating up and down the coastline, and some of the best vistas on Hwy 1.
State Parks and BLM have an agreement to manage the San Simeon State Park lands that include some of the Piedras Blancas ONA, a total of some 444 acres. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein introduced Senate Bill 1971 and Congresspersons Lois Capps, Anna G. Eshoo and Jared Huffman introduced House Bill 3565, to “expand the boundary of the California Coastal National Monument “to include six onshore units, one of which is the Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area.”
Including the light station in the national monument, and under “the National Landscape Conservation System” would “unify the response of federal, state and volunteer organizations to current management challenges to balance visitor use with protection of the resources.”
President Bill Clinton in January 2000 established the California Coastal National Monument, protecting some 840 miles of coastline out to 12 miles, and made all federal owned lands off limits to development or even leases, with the exception of “any State or Federal oil or gas lessee within the territorial waters off the California coast,” reads the official proclamation signed Jan. 11, 2000. It ends with, “Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.”
While the entirely of the California Coastline is under the designation, only a relatively small area of land from Pt. Arena south about 10-12 miles, the so-called “Point Arena-Stornetta Unit,” is included.
With President Obama in the last year of his Presidency, the Administration has been on a roll recently, designating large areas of the nation, especially in the Western U.S. as protected lands under various federal programs, something every President does as part of his legacy. Also, Capps and Boxer are retiring this year after long careers in Washington.
Given those circumstances, the political climate would seem good for the light station gaining the increased status and protection.