Spectacular scenery sings the siren's song to summer travelers along 1,100 miles of the awe-inspiring California coast.
Spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife, and heartfelt connections - these are the natural ties between community residents and nature that combine to make the Bureau of Land Management's California Coastal National Monument unique among the agency's assemblage of National Conservation Lands.
The monument, established by Presidential proclamation in 2000, protects more than 20,000 small islands, rocks, exposed reefs and pinnacles stretching the entire 1,100-mile length of California's coast.
Waves crashing over the rocks jutting from the brilliant blue Pacific provide a breathtaking backdrop for drivers on California's Highway 1, revered by many as one of the world's most scenic drives. Photographers and artists from around the world are drawn to the rocks, writers are inspired by them, and school children in coastal towns use the natural beauty in their own back yards to produce poetry, essays and art.
Importantly, however, these rocks and islands provide critical habitat for seabirds, seals, sea lions, and unique plants.
And this year, the California Coastal National Monument "came ashore," as 1,665 acres known as the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands were added to the monument. This property on the Mendocino Coast, also designated by Presidential proclamation, more than doubled the monument's acreage, and for the first time provided opportunity for people to actually set foot on the monument. There is now unfettered public access to a 12-mile swath of coastal prairies and dramatic bluffs overlooking a rugged and rocky shoreline.
The monument is loved by many, for many different reasons.
It's a haven for birds. Monument rocks are critical nesting and breeding grounds for thousands of birds. Although the ocean is their primary habitat and food source, seabirds such as murres, guillemots and puffins nest on the offshore rocks where they are safe from predators.
It's a marine mammal retreat. Harbor seals, California sea lions, Stellar sea lions, elephant seals and California sea otters thrive in the waters surrounding the monument and go out onto the rocks to rest.
It's a natural wonder. The nutrient-rich waters around the monument support diverse habitats and organisms. Tidepools, pounded by the surf and baked by the sun, are some of the harshest environments on earth and support fascinating life forms adapted to survive in extreme conditions.
It's an economic engine. Coastal communities from enclaves near San Diego, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area, to the tiny towns on the rugged north coast depend on tourist dollars brought by thousands of visitors drawn to the coast's magnificent beauty. Importantly, the tourism is sustainable and not dependent on development.
It's a respite from the stresses of daily life. A stroll across coastal prairies at Point Arena, a hike on Trinidad Head or a stop at a dramatic ocean overlook provides ways for people to revitalize and recharge.