Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interior secretary says Obama may bypass Congress on monuments

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she may recommend that President Obama act unilaterally to create new national monuments if Congress remains gridlocked. She recently visited some sites in California. (Dan Joling / Associated Press / September 3, 2013)
SAN FRANCISCO — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she will recommend that President Obama act alone if necessary to create new national monuments and sidestep a gridlockedCongress that has failed to address dozens of public lands bills.
Jewell said the logjam on Capitol Hill has created a conservation backlog, and she warned that the Obama administration would not "hold its breath forever" waiting for lawmakers to act.
"The president will not hesitate," Jewell said in an interview in San Francisco last week. "I can tell you that there are places that are ripe for setting aside, with a tremendous groundswell of public support."
Congress has not added any acreage to the national park or wilderness systems since 2010. Jewell blamed ramped-up rhetoric in Washington for the impasse. She said the appetite for preserving American historic and cultural sites remains high but some officials seek to avoid the appearance of publicly embracing more government protection.
Jewell, who has been on the job scarcely six months, came to California to promote several intiatives and tour a site that could be added to a national monument along the Mendocino coast.
She began with a meet and greet at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On a bright day with gulls wheeling against a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge — the velvety green Marin headlands in the distance — Jewell stood in one of the nation's most-visited national parks and made the case for the value of public lands.
Among the public events on Jewell's schedule was a visit to the 1,255-acre Stornetta Public Lands site on the Mendocino County coast, north of Point Arena. Several members of the California congressional delegation have proposed adding the site to the California Coastal National Monument.
It's one of many pending federal bills that would conserve land in California. One bill would expand the boundary of Yosemite National Park, and another would create a national monument in the San Gabriel Mountains.  READ MORE: