Return of the Natives does it again. On March 2nd and 3rd, the group lead more than 400 hundred children and families in planting projects out on the Fort Ord Public Lands.
The Return of the Natives Restoration Education Project (RON) brings people and nature together. RON is a community and school-based environmental education program dedicated to involving students (Kindergarten through University) in habitat restoration and service learning projects in the schoolyard and throughout the community from the Monterey Peninsula to North Monterey County and from Salinas to San Ardo.
The group recently received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for all of their work – more than 1000 volunteer hours each year!
White House conference on conservation. In front row (from left): Mary Ann Leffel, Henrietta Stern, Gary Courtright and Godon Smith
Fort Ord national monument supporters attended an invitation-only White House conference on conservation called “Growing America’s Outdoor Heritage and Economy” on March 2.
Leading the conservation conference were Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army.
In attendance from Monterey County were Monterey County Counsel, Charles McKee, President of the Monterey County Business Council, Mary Ann Leffel, Henrietta Stern of FORT Friends; Gordon Smith, past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5888, Santa Cruz and member of Keep Fort Ord Wild; Gary Courtright of Monterey Off-Road Cycling Association (MORCA), a chapter of IMBA.
California Senator Barbara boxer (right) with Henrietta Stern and Gordon Smith
This week, both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer sent letters to President Obama requesting he “formally recognize the Fort Ord Public Lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906.”
The Senators highlighted the important military history, with more than 1.5 million soldiers having been stationed at Fort Ord. Sen. Feinstein also highlighted to importance of the public lands to the community. Tens of thousands of people visit the public lands at Fort Ord each year, contributing and additional $4 to $6 million to the local economy.
Vet Voice Foundation has been working to share the stories of veterans on the importance of preserving public lands. Over 1,200 people have signed their petition to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, urging them to support national monument status for the BLM-managed lands at Fort Ord. Check out some of the interviews with veterans in California on the importance of public lands.
On February 24, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to designate the Fort Ord Public Lands as a national monument. In his letter, Secretary Laird talks about the substantial local, regional and congressional support for permanently protecting the public lands at Fort Ord for future generations.
Retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Vitali Mostovoj, from Thousand Oaks, CA recent wrote a guest column talking about how western voters across the political spectrum view protected public lands, such as monuments, as critical to their quality of life and called for President Obama to heard the calls of the local community and protect Fort Ord as a national monument.
From Stars and Stripes:
Neighboring communities also support protecting the area’s public lands. The president has the authority under the Antiquities Act to establish national monuments at places of natural, historical or scientific significance, and we invite President Barack Obama to exercise his authority and take decisive action to protect Fort Ord.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors has adopted a resolution in support of protecting Fort Ord as a National Monument. View the resolution and letter to President Obama urging the use of the Antiquities Act to protect Fort Ord.
The City of Pacific Grove took up a resolution in support of designating Fort Ord a national monument under the Antiquities Act at a February 1, 2012 City Council meeting. Watch footage from the meeting to learn why Pacific Grove supports protecting Fort Ord.
“There’s a distinction to be made when talking about designating Fort Ord a National Monument. It’s a plan that does not include all of the former Army base. The proposal focuses on two areas of open space: the public lands currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management and acres still being cleaned up by the Army. Together these 15,000 acres are being targeted for National Monument status.”
“Congressman Sam Farr says it’s a level of protection that would fit the needs of the area. “What we want is the highest category of protection that would allow us to still have events like the Sea Otter Classic, allow people to horseback ride, and ride bicycles and once in a while get in with a motorized vehicle to do clean-up or unexploded ordinance work,” said Congressman Farr. And as it turns out it’s a level of protection that doesn’t have to go through Congress. It can happen with a Presidential Declaration. Nearly every president since [Theodore] Roosevelt has created a National Monument.”
Next week, Henrietta Stern of FORT Friends and Gordon Smith of Keep Fort Ord Wild, will head to Washington, DC, to meet with federal officials to encourage the designation of a Fort Ord National Monument.
From the Monterey County Weekly:
Local activists head to D.C. to push for Fort Ord National Monument. With more than 60 public agencies and a dozen-plus citizens’ groups claiming a stake in the former Fort Ord, consensus on how to manage it is as rare as the black legless lizard. So the solidarity in a push to designate up to 14,650 acres as a national monument is something of a shocker; stakeholders from Fort Ord Reuse Authority to the Sierra Club are asking the feds to protect the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Ford Ord acreage in perpetuity.