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President Obama has made it official. Our newest national monument is Fort Ord -- more than 14,000 acres right on Monterey Bay where an estimated 1.5 million Army troops trained before the base shut down for good in 1994. (Fun fact you won't find in the official proclamation: Both Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix completed basic training there.)

Along with three cheers for the announcement, here are three of the many reasons Fort Ord was an excellent choice. First, the public lands that the president has permanently protected represent a diverse range of intact ecosystems in an area that's under increasing pressure from development. As President Obama's proclamation states: "It is one of the few remaining places in the world where large expanses of coastal scrub and live oak woodland and savanna habitat, mixed with rare vernal pools, exist in a contiguous, interconnected landscape." It's also home to 44 rare, threatened, or endangered species.

Second, Fort Ord already gets more than 100,000 annual visitors who come for the 86 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails. The national monument designation ensures that these public lands will be available for the enjoyment of generations to come, and it's certain to boost to the region's tourism and recreation economies.

Finally, as Sierra Club Military Family and Veterans Representative Stacy Bare has pointed out, Fort Ord's proximity to both a Veterans Transition Center and the Naval Postgraduate School means that, if managed correctly, it could become a model of outdoor recreation and cooperation for the Department of Defense, Department of Interior, and Department of Veterans Affairs. Getting outdoors is good for everyone, but it can be especially helpful for vets who are dealing with stress and other issues. It's fitting that Fort Ord could help provide those healing experiences.

Fort Ord is the second monument declaration to come from President Obama. Earlier this year, he got off to a good, if modest, start when he designated Virginia's Fort Monroe. Following up with Fort Ord, though, the president has stepped up his game and given us a major addition to our national heritage. He deserves all our thanks.

But why stop when you're just getting warmed up? Dozens of strong candidates for national monument designation are ready for protection. I've already written about New Mexico's Organ Mountains and the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument adjacent to Utah's Canyonlands National Park. New Mexico also has Otero Mesa, which is the largest and wildest expanse of desert grasslands left on U.S. public lands.

Like Fort Ord, all of these public lands deserve to be permanently protected for the benefit of their true owners: the American people. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before they fall prey to the greed of those who would prefer to drill, mine, or develop them for profit. So let's send the president a message: "Thank you for Fort Ord -- and for working to protect still more of our most special places."

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Comment Preferences

  •  Please, please, please (7+ / 0-)

    expand Canyonlands.  No question.  Those Utah Republicans are going to screw us anyway, and that land is simply too amazingly, heart-stoppingly beautiful not to protect.  People from all over the United States who have had the great good fortune to walk in solitude on the Colorado Plateau get it.  People who have been there form a sort of fraternity, and although we are reluctant to advertise it too widely, lots of others should get a chance to know this amazing land.

    Otero Mesa would be an excellent choice too, with relatively little economic cost and a lot of ecological value being so close to Carlsbad Caverns and the Guadaloupe Mts monuments in SE NM and W Tex.  It's a beautiful place, lots of pronghorn antelope still living there, almost unknown except to a few desert rats who love the place. Organ mountains is a good choice, too.  None of these designations would hurt the US economy.  

    We've never suffered when the US has designated national monuments.  It almost always ends up being an economic boon for the area.  Protecting wilderness is a little like saving a life - when you get a shot at it, you should take it, instinctively.  Sometimes you only get one chance, and there's a special permanent satisfaction that comes with protecting a bit of wilderness.

    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

    by ivorybill on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 11:18:19 AM PDT

    •  Our federal lands in Utah deserve protection (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ivorybill, Wee Mama, Aunt Pat

      *Its Republican Congressional delegation (and many other Republicans in Congress) are trying to eliminate the president's authority to designate National Monuments;

      *the governor just signed a state law that would "take back" millions of acres of federal lands in the state----a clearly unconstitutional land grab;

      *gas drilling is coming to the very edge of the wilderness lands surrounding the incomparable Desolation Canyon on the wild Green River, and of course

      *the entire Greater Canyonlands area is threatened.

      Every president...every president---even Bush---has used the Antiquities Act to protect our wild lands. I applaud President Obama for protecting Ford Ord, but
      he needs to step up big time and use his authority to protect our remaining public lands.

      Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

      by willyr on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 11:38:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sadly, the point isn't whether the US suffers, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      whether a corporation is prevented from making a profit in the way it wants.  That's what affects whether areas are set aside and under what protections.

  •  Very good news (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    willyr, Wee Mama, Aunt Pat

    and I was glad to hear about Fort Monroe. Alot of history there, and an incredible location, right on the water.

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