Update, Tuesday 1 p.m.: President Obama made it official today, issuing a proclamation that adds a 1,665-acre parcel at Point Arena to the California Coastal National Monument. The proclamation, which the president signed earlier today at the White House, waxes poetic on the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands that will become part of the monument:
Some of California's most spectacular wildlife make use of this striking landscape and its diverse vegetation communities. The Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands provide important habitat for harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and an occasional elephant seal, which visitors can catch sight of from the vantage of the terrace's western bluffs. The terrace itself supports thriving native bunchgrass prairie and coastal scrub communities. Generally low-lying vegetation is punctuated by a rare bishop pine forest and the southernmost natural example of a shore pine forest.
The bunchgrass prairie is home to the endemic Behren's silverspot butterfly, which is dependent on the presence of the dog violet. The rare and endemic Point Arena mountain beaver makes use of the diverse habitats in these lands. A wide array of rare bird species also uses the area's interconnected habitats, including the black oystercatcher, the little willow flycatcher, the yellow warbler, and the black-crowned night heron. Squadrons of brown pelicans are a frequent sight, gliding low over the powerful waves, while snowy plovers are sometimes seen foraging along the surf line.
Water plays an essential role in sustaining and connecting plant and animal life in this rugged landscape. At the northern end of these lands, the Garcia River ends its 44-mile journey to the Pacific. The estuary formed by the meeting of these waters provides both a nursery for juvenile fish and a transition zone for a variety of far-roaming salmonids, including central California coast coho salmon, the California coastal Chinook salmon, and northern California steelhead. These anadromous species depend on the Garcia River estuary and its flow through the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to access their upstream spawning habitat. Across the river, powerful winds sculpt an extensive dune system, its shifting sands pocketed with brackish, semi-permanent ponds. Hathaway Creek, which feeds into the Garcia River, also passes through the public lands and provides important riparian habitat. The area's salt marshes, brackish pools, and freshwater springs and seeps support an array of plant and animal species, including Humboldt Bay owl's clover, as well as the rare California red-legged frog.
A clutch of dignitaries and Mendocino officials attended the proclamation signing, including: Reps. Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson; Leslie Dahlhoff, former mayor of Point Arena; Scott Schneider, president and CEO of Visit Mendocino County; Eloisa Oropeza, tribal chair of the Manchester-Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians; Larry Stornetta, rancher and former land owner of a portion of the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands; and Merita Whatley, manager of the Point Arena Lighthouse and member of Point Arena Merchants Association.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is scheduled to visit Point Arena on Wednesday for a celebration of the proclamation.
Original post: Probably the first question most people have about Point Arena, even we worldly travelers in the Bay Area, is, "Where's that?"
Answer: It's a place — two places, actually, a headland with a beautiful lighthouse and a nearby town — on the Mendocino Coast about 100 miles northwest of San Francisco. It's also about to become the first land-based addition to the California Coastal National Monument, a strip of more than 20,000 offshore islands and rocks stretching from the Mexican border to the Oregon state line.