SLO CITY NEWS 8-29-18 Mayors Support Carrizo Plain

Aug 29, 2017

Mayors Support Carrizo Plain Protections

 

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With the fate of the Carrizo Plains National Monument hanging in the balance, local mayors have banded together to urge the Trump administration to continue to protect the vast grasslands in the Southeastern corner of SLO County.
On Aug. 23, with an announcement from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, expected any day, Mayors Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo, Tom O’Malley of Atascadero, Steve Martin of Paso Robles, John Shoals of Grover Beach, and Jamie Irons of Morro Bay sent a letter urging Secretary Zinke to keep protections in place for the Carrizo Plain National Monument, according to a news release from Los Padres Forest Watch, a public lands advocacy group.
The Carrizo Plain is one of 27 national monuments under review by the Interior Department following the April 2017 Executive Order by President Trump calling for the review, designed “to determine whether to shrink the monuments or rescind their protections entirely,” according to Forest Watch.
The Carrizo is part of the larger California Valley area and represents the largest remaining expanse of native grasslands in California; is home to Painted Rock, a Native American heritage site; and is critical habitat for a wide variety of protected plants and animals.
It’s also at the edge of a large oilfield in the Temblor Range of mountains on the eastern side of the Valley. It is also bordered on one side by the infamous San Andreas Earthquake Fault.
And exceedingly arid and isolated place, California Valley outside the national monument is a sparsely populated vast expanse of ranches and cattle grazing, and in recent years, it has been invaded with more than 100 marijuana farms, bringing the area under the rare scrutiny of the law.
Support for the monument and against the administration’s review has been overwhelming. “Local support for the monument has been massive,” Forest Watch said. “Eight million comments — the largest public comment period in the history of the Department of the Interior — were received during the public comment period, of which 97.7% were supportive of the Carrizo Plain.”


Some 136 businesses from San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Kern counties signed letters in support of the national monument and sent them in August to the Secretary. Letters form local Chambers of Commerce were also sent. “Each of these letters articulated how this year’s ‘California Superbloom’ [of wildflowers] during March and April brought record crowds to the Carrizo Plain who stopped for gas and supplies in towns such as Atascadero, and Santa Margarita — both of which are considered ‘Gateway Communities’ to the monument.”
Those thousands of eco-tourists also explored the rest of SLO County and spread the economic boost to local cities.
The mayors’ letter also spelled out the Carrizo’s benefits as a local “natural sanctuary” — a get-away spot for residents to enjoy outdoor activities. “The Carrizo Plain is somewhere local residents can go at any time to take time out of their busy schedules to rest and recover while marveling at its natural beauty and wonder.”
“As Mayor of San Luis Obispo, I have seen the immensely positive impact of the Carrizo Plain National Monument within our community,” SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon said. “Contributing significantly to our local economy through tourism from around the globe, the Carrizo Plain also provides an opportunity for all to explore the history and natural beauty of San Luis Obispo County.
“I stand with my fellow Mayors of San Luis Obispo County in my support for one of the true jewels of the Central Coast.”


Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley said, “As Mayor and as a member of Atascadero’s Tourism Business Improvement District, A-TBID, I agree with our Chamber of Commerce. Protection of the Carrizo Plain intersects with our Chamber’s economic vision to protect and support our beautiful and diverse cultural opportunities. The City, A-TBID and the Chamber frequently feature photos of this spectacular natural landscape in our promotional materials with ecotourism being a top economic driver in our region.” Atascadero and Santa Margarita are official gateway communities of the Carrizo Plain.
The Mayors’ letter reads, “The Carrizo Plain National Monument is woven into the historical, cultural, and economic fabric of San Luis Obispo County, and it is imperative that it remains so.”
Secretary Zinke is scheduled to issue a recommendation this week. Carrizo Plain supporters have a website for more information, see: savethecarrizo.org.

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