A collection of rocky islands and tidal areas along the coast of Orange County are now officially part of the California Coastal National Monument.
Environmentalists cheered the announcement, which was made Thursday as one of President Obama’s last executive orders before leaving the White House.
“We were hoping the president would take this action,” said Ed Almanza, member of the board of the Laguna Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit conservation group. “We’ve been working on getting our rocks into the monument for a long time.”
Bill Clinton designated the California Coastal National Monument in 2000. It included most of the small rocky islands off of California’s coast, but left out those in Orange County because they had been set aside by Congress in the 1930s for lighthouses or other purposes.
Lighthouses were never built, and in the years since the national monument was established, multiple California legislators had tried to pass bills to get Orange County's rocks included.
The tiny, rocky islands — most of them clustered along the shore between Laguna Beach and Corona Del Mar — are important feeding, breeding and resting ground for birds. They also provide habitat for sea lions and numerous invertebrates.
“These stepping stones provide habitat and connectivity … down through the Southland,” Almanza said.
The California Coastal National Monument expansion also includes Piedras Blancas in San Luis Obispo and the Lost Coast Headlands in Northern California. In total 6,200 additional acres will be protected and under control of the Bureau of Land Management.