President's Action Protects, Connects Northern California Area Known for Natural Beauty, Recreational Opportunities
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined members of Congress, California State and local elected officials, and community members across Northern California today in praising the President's designation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.
The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is one of three new national monuments announced by President Obama today that help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique cultural and natural resources for the benefit of all Americans.
"The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument strikes a unique balance between Northern California's urban environments of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, and the wild, remote landscapes that surround the farms, ranches, orchards and vineyards that nourish our nation," said Secretary Vilsack. "The President's proclamation today will ensure that these lands will continue to be a sustainable, working landscape that supports local economies and critical resources like fresh water, grazing lands, and habitat for important plant, fish and wildlife species."
"Today's action honors more than a decade of work by the local community to protect this beautiful landscape," said Secretary Jewell. "The Berryessa Snow Mountain region draws families and outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure, recreation and the solitude that only nature can provide. The President's action will help boost local economies and ensure that the area's unique natural, cultural, and recreational resources are protected for generations to come."
The new 330,780-acre monument is comprised of existing federal lands, extending from Berryessa Peak and other lands in the vicinity of Lake Berryessa in Napa, Yolo, and Solano counties through spectacular lands of Lake, Colusa, and Glenn Counties to the eastern boundary of the Yuki Wilderness in Mendocino County. It is now the second largest national monument in California, after the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The monument does not include Lake Berryessa itself, which will continue to be managed as a recreation area by the Bureau of Reclamation.
In December, Secretary Jewell, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie, visited the Berryessa Snow Mountain area at the request of Congressman Mike Thompson to hear from the community about their vision for conservation in the region. Since 2012, Congressman Thompson and Senator Barbara Boxer have been introducing legislation to protect this area. The boundary declared by the President's designation follows the approach adopted by legislation introduced in February of this year following extensive public outreach and engagement by the Congressman.
The region's proximity to population centers such as Sacramento, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa make the area important setting for recreation for millions of Northern California residents. Studies estimate an increase in visitors could bring up to $26 million in new economic activity and $500,000 in tax revenue to local economies during the five year period post designation.
Miles of hiking, horseback riding and designated off-road vehicle trails offer visitors views of the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east and the Coastal Mountains to the west, as well as panoramic vistas overlooking Clear Lake, Lake Berryessa, and the steep canyon of Cache Creek. Hunting and angling are popular activities year-round. The Cache Creek, Cedar Rough, and Snow Mountain wilderness areas provide opportunities for remote backcountry travel and Cache Creek provides the closest commercial whitewater rafting to San Francisco.
The area contains one of the greatest concentrations of biodiversity in California, and is home to threatened and endangered plant and wildlife species including northern spotted owls, marten and fisher. California Coastal chinook salmon and Northern California steelhead spawn in the area's waterways.
"This is an amazing area for the public to get outside and connect with their public lands and the natural environment, said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Visitors can get a truly wild experience on this landscape, spending days and even weeks exploring the rugged terrain and finding something new around every corner. From the smallest insects and flowers, the largest mammals and trees, to the sweeping vistas of the Monument's mountains and valleys across the Sacramento Valley to the High Sierra – this is a breathtaking area with so much to see and explore."
The proclamation allows for continued historic uses of the area, including hunting, fishing and livestock grazing, which will be managed under existing rules and regulations. The designation does not alter or affect valid water rights, rights of way, or existing special use permits or commercial activities, as long as they are consistent with the care and management of the objects and resources protected by the designation.
"The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is an incredible resource for the people of north-central California," said BLM Director Neil Kornze. "The BLM is proud to play a role managing these lands for the public's enjoyment and preserving them for future generations."
The Forest Service and BLM will jointly prepare a management plan that will address the actions necessary to protect the resources identified in the monument proclamation. The plan will be developed with public involvement including tribal, state and local governments, ranchers, permit holders and other interested stakeholders.
The Antiquities Act was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients.
With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 19 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.