Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) today testified on HR 4969, the California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act of 2012 in front of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests & Public Lands. Thompson was joined by Merita Whatley from Mendocino County in testifying before the committee. Whatley is the manager of the Point Arena Lighthouse and a core member of the Point Arena Merchants Association.
"Preserving the Point Arena-Stornetta public lands is a win for our environment and our economy," said Thompson. "The bill will help our travel and tourism economy, an industry that supports 5,000 jobs in Mendocino County. It will also permanently protect this wonderful stretch of coast for future generations of Americans to enjoy."
In her written testimony, Whatley stated, "Our small businesses are still thriving partly due to the large number of visitors coming to visit Point Arena Lighthouse and to experience the natural beauty of Stornetta Public Lands. We need a visitor's information kiosk for education and interpretation, more adequate parking, restrooms, and a ranger on duty to help protect the sensitive habitat areas. We need further surveys to determine means of protecting endangered plant and wildlife on the Lands. Managing these sensitive lands as part of the California Coastal National Monument, as HR 4969 does, will address the most fundamental of these needs and help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy this area as we do today."
After the hearing is held, the next step is for the bill to be voted on by the full Committee on Natural Resources. It would then be available for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Please find Thompson's full testimony below.
Thank you Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva, and subcommittee members for holding this hearing on H.R. 4969, the California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act.
The Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands along the Mendocino County Coast in Northern California are a national treasure. This section of coast is not only one of the most breathtakingly beautiful areas I have ever seen, it is also a major contributor to the local economy, ecologically important, and would be a vital addition to the California Coastal National Monument.
The Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands border the City of Point Arena, a picturesque small town just a few hours north of the San Francisco Bay area. Traveling this short distance transports you from city streets to tide pools, waterfalls, and blowholes. The view of people, cars, and houses is replaced by wild landscape of endangered butterflies, salmon, Tundra swans, and harbor seals. This pristine area is beloved by the surrounding community and yearly visitors.
Travel and tourism are responsible for the largest job sector in Mendocino County. Visitors come from around the world to experience the unique wildlife, landscape, and breathtaking coastline this area of California has to offer, supporting more than 5,000 jobs earning over $114 million a year. These visitors also contribute approximately $19 million in state and local taxes. As traditional jobs in timber and fishing industries decline, these public lands become even more important to ensure that close to 2 million annual visitors continue to come to Mendocino County each year.
H.R. 4969 not only helps the economy in Northern California, but also protects an ecologically important area. For example, salmon and steelhead trout spawn in the waters of the Garcia River and migratory waterfowl stopover in the neighboring wetlands.
Designating these public lands as a national monument has unprecedented public support and has truly been a grassroots effort. Twenty letters of support have been received from local cities, Mendocino County, the local chambers of commerce, tourist and merchants associations, the Manchester Band of Pomo Indians, and a number of local and national environmental groups. I ask that I be able to submit these letters as part of the committee's record.
In addition, both of California's Senators and the two California State Assemblymen who represent this area also support this designation. Perhaps most impressive is a petition of over 750 supporters from the area, throughout the country, and around the world. H.R. 4969 is something the local community and even global visitors want.
Of the land included in H.R. 4969, 1,255 acres are already owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The remaining 400 acres have been prioritized in the FY 2013 budget by BLM for purchase from a single landowner who fully supports this effort.
Expanding the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta lands is a win for the economy, a win for the environment, and a win for the people who will enjoy this area for generations to come.
Thank you and I welcome any questions you may have.
Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California's 1st Congressional District, which includes the Counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, and Yolo. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and sits on the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.