Aguiar-Curry and Dodd Lead Charge to Protect California’s National Monuments

(From Press Release) – Assembly Joint Resolution 15, a bill expressing the support of the California State Legislature to continue protecting national monuments, passed out of the State Assembly on a  bipartisan vote of 56-16. The measure was introduced by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D – Winters) last week in response to the announcement of a federal review of national monuments, and was originally coauthored by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D – Santa Rosa), and Senators Bill Dodd (D – Napa) and Mike McGuire (D – Healdsburg).

The measure has since gained such significant momentum that the four lead authors were joined by 49 additional Assembly coauthors as part of the action today on the Assembly Floor.

In late April, President Trump signed an executive order for the review of all national monuments designated by the federal government under the Antiquities Act since 1996. Since the Antiquities Act’s passage in 1906, no president has revoked the national monument designation of another president.

National monuments are lands that are protected by the federal government. Of the twenty-two national monuments in California, seven will be subject to review: Giant Sequoia, Carrizo Plain, Cascade Siskiyou, San Gabriel Mountains, Berryessa Snow Mountain, Mojave Trails, and Sand to Snow National Monuments.

“I had the privilege of working with hundreds of people from communities throughout Northern California to designate Berryessa Snow Mountain as a National Monument. What I saw was a massive expression of community support and pride.  It’s heart-warming to see the outpouring of support from my colleagues in today’s action,” Aguiar-Curry said. “People support these monument designations because they represent a true local effort to protect our valuable lands, cultural resources, sacred tribal sites, and create jobs and tourism for our local economies.”

California’s national monuments provide public access to a number of recreational, educational, and job opportunities. In California alone, outdoor recreation generates $85 billion in annual consumer spending and over 730,000 jobs.

“Designating and protecting public lands has been one of our country’s best tools in our fight to protect our environment,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood who represents California’s North Coast and rose to speak in support of the resolution in today’s action. “One of the newest National Monuments, the Stornetta Point Arena Public Lands on the Mendocino Coast, was designated a national monument in 2014 after years of effort by the community and it would be a tragedy to have all of that hard work undone.”

The joint resolution is supported by a large coalition, including almost 70 environmental, land protection, conservation, and recreational advocates and organizations. Supporters argue that national monuments play a vital role in preserving the cultural, historical, and ecological values of California and local economies, many in rural California, where job creation opportunities are limited.

Bob Schneider, Senior Policy Director of the conservation group, Tuleyome, testified with Aguiar-Curry and Wood in support of the resolution.  “There is a passion in America for those special places that tell the stories of who we are and from whence we came.  Our parks, our forests, our deserts, our plants and wildlife, plate tectonics, outdoor recreation, economic opportunities; These are  our national monuments,” said Schneider.  “We value them, we care for them, and we will fight to protect them.  Thank you to Assembly members Aguiar-Curry and Wood and Senators Dodd and McGuire for championing this effort.”

“AJR 15 shows that Californians stand strong against any federal efforts to rollback national monuments protections. From the Mojave Desert to the Coastal Range Mountains to the grassy Carrizo Plains, these monuments are loved for many reasons, including the opportunity to view iconic wildlife such as desert tortoise, San Joaquin kit fox and Tule elk,” said Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife.

“Our coastline, mountains, forests, parks, national monuments – our protected public lands – are California’s calling card to the world and part of a deeply rooted legacy of conservation that is essential to our tourism and recreation economy, to our quality of life, and to achieving climate resilience and environmental justice in our state,” said Mariana Maguire with the Conservation Lands Foundation.

In today’s testimony, Aguiar-Curry said: “AJR 15 lets Washington know that here in California we’re doing just fine. Our communities support protecting these lands, and California wants to continue to protect them.  Please use the resources you’d spend on this review in California on actually protecting our State’s valuable natural resources.”

AJR 15 now moves to the State Senate. If passed through both legislative houses, the adopted resolution would be sent to the federal government to be included in public comment on the review by the federal executive branch.

The public can also weigh in to protect our public lands by submitting online comments at http://www.regulations.govEnter “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar, click “search”, then click “Comment Now” or mail your comments to: Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

What State Public Lands Advocates are Saying:

The Wilderness Society, Dan Smuts, Senior Director, Pacific Region: “Here in California, we are facing an unprecedented assault on some of our most beloved wildlands, including crucial sources of clean water and air. Seven of our national monuments are under unprecedented “review” and face illegal revision or elimination by President Trump. Thankfully, California’s political leaders, like Assembly members Aguiar-Curry and Wood and Senators Dodd and McGuire are are taking a stand to protect these amazing areas, maintain the economic vitality of communities that depend on tourism and recreation dollars, and conserve critical historical, cultural and scientific sites.”

California Native Plant Society, Dan Gluesenkamp, Executive Director: “This year’s rain ended a three-year drought and filled our landscapes with an epic superbloom of wildflowers. And just as people of all ages and television crews from around the world converged at places like Carrizo Plain to witness this marvel, Trump announces his assault on these very lands.”

Environment California, Dan Jacobson, State Director: “California is filled with beautiful places and it is our responsibility to enjoy them today so others can enjoy them tomorrow.”

Conservation Lands Foundation, Elyane Stefanick, California Program Director: “Assembly Joint Resolution 15 is a strong message that California does not want its national monuments changed or rescinded. Our state’s public lands can be attributed to the more than 730,000 jobs in outdoor recreation created in the state and approximately $6.7 million generated in state and local tax revenue. We are a culture of outdoor enthusiasts who care about public lands and the social, economic, ecologic, and environmental values they provide. AJR 15 is a testament to the state’s commitment to public lands and all that they provide. Conservation Lands Foundation thanks Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Senator Bill Dodd for their leadership to pass AJR 15.”

Defenders of Wildlife,  Kim Delfino, California program director: “National monuments in California preserve unique aspects of California’s stunning natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations alike. These designations protect wildlife in key habitats ranging from forests to grasslands to deserts. National monuments drive new revenue streams to local economies and protect cultural, historical and scientific attributes of special areas in our country. How we treat these public lands will be the legacy we leave behind for generations to come.”

The Vet Voice Foundation, Steve Dunwoody, California Director: “On behalf of the 500,000 veterans and families that support our work, the Vet Voice Foundation would like to express its support for AJR 15. As veterans, we consider these public lands to be part of the homeland we swore to defend in uniform. In addition to this, returning servicemen from overseas use these lands to recover from war-related trauma like PTSD. AJR 15 seeks to recognize the importance of these lands, and we offer it our full support for our veterans, active duty military and their families. We urge its speedy passage.”

Mojave Desert Land Trust, Danielle Segura, Executive Director: “Our desert community worked for over a decade to designate the three California desert national monuments: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains. Since the Executive Order threatening their protection, the community has rallied once again to fight for the monuments and the access to public lands, clean air and water, and economic opportunities they provide.”

Save the Redwoods League, Sam Hodder, President and Chief Executive Officer: “The effort to save the giant sequoia groves of California began over 150 years ago, and with President Trump’s recent Executive Order, we are reminded that job is never done. The giant sequoia are the world’s largest and among the oldest trees, growing only in a narrow band along the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. They are truly national treasures, and gigantic ones at that, generating revenue for local economies through tourism, providing clean drinking water to downstream communities, and inspiring a love of nature and pride in our Californian heritage in people of all ages. Save the Redwoods League supports AJR15 and stands beside the diverse constituents that have come together again and again to protect these globally unique forests.”

The Trust for Public Land, Mary Creasman, California Director of Government Affairs: “The passing of Assembly Joint Resolution 15 is the latest example of our state’s commitment to public lands and sustainable landscapes.” Said Mary Creasman, California Director of Government Affairs for The Trust for Public Land. “Any attempt by our federal government to rollback national monument designations is an attack on the Antiquities Act, and on equitable public access to the outdoors and the sustainability of our communities. We are grateful for the leadership of the California Legislature; showing the way for states across the country. ”

Lake County Land Trust, Tom Smythe, Executive Director: “The Snow Berryessa National Monument enjoys wide public support and promises to attract many visitors to our region to enjoy its 350,000 acres of spectacular beauty, while affording local residents access to a vast array of outdoor activities. This would bring a welcome economic boost to Lake County and beyond. We urge support of AJR-15.”

Access Fund, Katie Goodwin, Public Lands Associate: “Access Fund supports legislation that fights back against the executive order to undermine the Antiquities Act. Rescinding or drastically modifying the size of National Monuments, including San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California will limit our voice in how public lands are used, managed, and stewarded.”

National Parks Conservation Association, Ron Sundergill, Pacific Region Senior Director for National Parks Conservation Association: “National Parks Conservation Association urges the California legislature to support the stunning landscapes, recreational opportunities and important cultural sites that our national monuments protect, by passing AJR 15. Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments, both under review by the Secretary of Interior, were created after nearly two decades of work by local communities and park supporters across the country, who called to preserve these areas, which safeguards critical wildlife corridors and connects our desert national parks.”

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  1. Roberta Millstein

    “Assembly Joint Resolution 15, a bill expressing the support of the California State Legislature to continue protecting national monuments”

    Does this just express support, or would it have any further teeth if the federal government were to successfully un-designate the national monuments?

    1. Eric Gelber

      A Joint Resolution expresses the Legislature’s opinion on an issue pertaining to the federal government. It doesn’t have the force of law.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        That’s what I was afraid of.  So, nice to see, and perhaps it will have some persuasive effect (assuming the federal government cares about what CA thinks, which it probably doesn’t), but no real teeth.

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