Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today hosted a public listening session to engage with the public, the Fort Ord Reuse Authority and friends groups on exploring the best path forward to preserve the public lands at Fort Ord for the enjoyment of all Americans. Secretary Salazar was joined by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey, U.S. Congressman Sam Farr, and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird.
Today's listening session was part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative to support locally-driven efforts to preserve and protect places that hold special historical and cultural meaning to communities across the country.
"Today I heard broad-based community support from many diverse stakeholder groups and organizations who want to protect the unique natural resources of Fort Ord and to build upon the great recreational opportunities that the public lands have to offer," said Salazar. "We have a tremendous opportunity to not only support a world-class destination for hikers, mountain bikers and those simply wanting to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, but we can also strengthen local economies."
"I want to thank Secretary Salazar for visiting and recognizing Fort Ord, the beautiful resources it has to offer and the community members who have worked with us to preserve its grand open spaces," said Congressman Sam Farr. "For more than a century Fort Ord has served as a critical component of our Central Coast community, economy and proud history. With the help of President Obama's Great Outdoors Initiative and continued community support, I have no doubt that we can continue to preserve this Central Coast jewel for future generations."
The Fort Ord Reuse Authority, known as FORA, was created by state legislation in 1994 under Senate Bill 899 to plan for, finance and manage the transition of Fort Ord from military to civilian use. The FORA is governed by a board representing local jurisdictions affected by the base closure that includes city council members from Marina, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey, Salinas, Sand City, Pacific Grove and Monterey County supervisors.
In 1996 the U.S. Army transferred 7,200 acres of the former Fort Ord military installation to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Fort Ord Base Reuse Plan. As a result, the BLM currently protects and manages 35 species of rare plants and animals along with their native coastal habitats. Once the Army completes a clean-up, an additional 7,450 acres will likely be transferred to the BLM.
"Already, over 100,000 people come every year to enjoy all that Ford Ord public lands have to offer," said Director Abbey. "BLM looks forward to continuing the strong partnership we have with the local communities to ensure that this special area is protected and available for the enjoyment of all for generations to come."
During his comments at the public meeting, Salazar noted the power of public lands to create jobs and grow the economy. Hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation contribute an estimated $730 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Accounting for one in 20 U.S. jobs, recreational workers exceed the number of doctors, lawyers or teachers. Department of the Interior lands support $363 billion in economic activity and 2.2 million jobs annually, with BLM public lands in California alone hosting more than 10 million recreation visitors a year. This translates to an estimated contribution of $980 million to local California economies and 7,600 recreation-related jobs.
Habitat preservation and conservation are primary missions for the Fort Ord Public Lands. However, there are also more than 86 miles of trails for the public to explore on foot, bike or horseback. The Sea Otter Classic - the largest mountain bike race in the United States and second largest in the world - is held at Ford Ord, drawing thousands of participants and supporters to the area every year.