What do the awe-inspiring wonder of the Grand Canyon, the ancient beauty of California’s Big Sequoia Forests, and the smoldering giant Mount St. Helens all have in common?
These national treasures were all permanently protected as national monuments by a sitting President, and that’s why we are able to enjoy them without fear that they will be ruined by mining, drilling or clear-cutting.
Fort Ord, on the California Coast, is an excellent place for President Obama to lead the way. The site of a former army post, it’s one of the last wild places on the stunning Monterey Peninsula: home to mountain lions, golden eagles and red-tailed hawks, and prized for hiking and cycling.
President Obama has already taken a step in the right direction by making Fort Monroe in Virginia a national monument – but there’s more to do. In an era of partisan gridlock, when it’s nearly impossible to get anything done in Congress for our wild places, this is one way President Obama can still make his mark as a President who will stand up for public lands. In 1995, during another time of partisan rancor, and in the middle of a tough re-election campaign, Bill Clinton established the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the Utah desert.
National monuments aren’t only good for wildlife – they’re good for people, too. They give us places to camp, hike and picnic. And they’re a boon to local economies, providing good jobs and a source of local pride.
With Big Oil and Coal companies pushing to open more lands to be destroyed by drilling and mining, now’s the time for President Obama to step up and establish a legacy that cherishes and protects our most special places.
There’s no doubt that it’s hard to get good things done in Washington these days. But President Obama can lead the way, benefitting millions of Americans for generations to come, by permanently protecting some of our most special places.