America is blessed with a great diversity of natural and cultural wonders: some of the most amazing archeological, historical, and ecological treasures on Earth. These places are too special for us to allow them to be destroyed by mining, drilling or clear-cutting. They are national treasures for current and future generations to share They should be protected as national monuments.
Recently President Obama used his authority to protect an important piece of America – he designated Fort Ord in California as the nation’s newest national monument. From 1902 to 1994, Fort Ord served as a unit garrison site and basic training base for Army soldiers who served in America’s conflicts from the Spanish-American War to the Vietnam War. The newly named Fort Ord National Monument is a reminder of the service of over a million troops who trained on these lands and a recognition of the area’s continuing historical and natural importance.
Fort Ord’s public lands also contain 86 miles of trails through some of the last remaining open space in the Monterey Bay area. Thousands of bicyclists, hikers, trail runners and horseback riders use the trails each year and enjoy sweeping views of Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley. The grassland hills and the area’s rare plants and wildlife also draw photographers and nature enthusiasts of all kinds. These visitors are also important sources of revenue and jobs that greatly benefit the area’s economy.
Fort Ord now joins the Grand Canyon, California’s Big Sequoia forests, Mount St. Helens, and many other national treasures that have gained permanent protection 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. This move by the President ensures the long-term protection of a piece of the past, as well as lasting enjoyment for future equestrians, mountain bikers, hikers and nature lovers who would visit the site.
Fort Ord’s designation and the Fort Monroe designation earlier this year are steps in the right direction when it comes to permanently protecting our nation’s natural, historic and cultural treasures. But there are other important areas still to protect and more to do.
Safeguarding our nation’s special places is not only good for the recreationists and wildlife, it is an economic boon and a job creator for local communities as well. There are many special areas that still lack permanent protection. President Obama can cut through the partisan gridlock in Washington and act decisively to defend these wild places by designating them as national monuments to protect their many and diverse ecological and economic benefits today and for the future.
Other areas worthy of national monument designations reach across the country – from Arizona’s Grand Canyon Watershed, to Utah’s Canyonlands, to New Mexico’s Otero Mesa, to Alaska’s Arctic Refuge.
Now is the time to act. President Obama has the opportunity to create a wild lands and a national monument legacy as enduring as Teddy Roosevelt’s, who protected the Grand Canyon and other national treasures. The President’s decisive action now will benefit generations to come.