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Islands Off Orange County Granted Monument Protection In Eleventh-Hour Move By Obama

Off the southern tip of Laguna Beach. (Photo by Stephanie Sarles via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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It almost feels like President Obama is making a sport out of having us miss him (even when he's not gone yet). In the last few days he's delivered a momentous farewell address and awarded his pal Joe with the ultimate parting gift. And now he's advancing the protection of California's coast.

On Thursday, it was announced that Obama had added six new sites to the California Coastal National Monument, which was started by Bill Clinton back in 2000 with the help of the Antiquities Act of 1906. Clinton's designation basically deemed the entire California coast as a national monument.

The new sites added by Obama include a series of small, rocky islands that lay off the coast of Orange County. Most of the islands exist along the shore between Laguna Beach and Corona Del Mar, and are said to be important habitats, as they are the sites of feeding and breeding for birds. Seals also make an appearance, according to the L.A. Times.

Ed Almanza of the Laguna Ocean Foundation told the O.C. Register in 2015 that these islands are vital due to a rise in tourism in Orange County. The uptick in visitors has filled the beaches year-round. As such, the small islands are one of the remaining places where the birds can stop to rest.

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As noted by KPCC, these spaces hadn't been originally included in the monument because, in the 1930's, Congress had set them aside as possible areas for new lighthouses. Those lighthouses were never built (really, it took them 80 years to give up?). And after the monument was designated, California legislators tried to pass bills to put the Orange County islands on the list of preserved spaces, but it wasn't until Barry's final days that the spaces were let in.

The five other sites being included are the Piedras Blancas in San Luis Obispo, the Cotoni-Coast Dairies in Santa Cruz, as well as three spaces in Humboldt County (Trinidad Head, Waluplh-Lighthouse Ranch, and Lost Coast Headlands). All of these locations were existing federal lands. Having been added to the monument, the lands are now granted additional protection that prevents new development such as mining and oil drilling. It also instructs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (which oversee the monument as a whole) "to manage these areas for the care and management of objects of scientific and historic interest," according to a release by the department. In total, the new additions amount to about 6,230 acres.

It's hard to find anyone objecting to this executive decision. But, yes, there are some people who are being a buzzkill. When the Cotoni-Coast Dairies were being proposed for the monument, some locals were iffy about the prospect, largely because they didn't want people to know about about the area. “There’s a very, very good chance we put out a huge welcome sign to everybody on the planet and that will bring illegal camping, people dumping garbage and forest fires,” one resident told the Mercury News.