Editorials

Carrizo Plain is worth saving — and not just for the ‘flower porn’

Catch the ‘fleeting beauty’ of the Carrizo Plain wildflowers

The wildflowers are in bloom in San Luis Obispo County - especially along Highway 58 near the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The especially wet winter has led to an explosion of wildflowers along the Central Coast. The 2017 season is expected to
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The wildflowers are in bloom in San Luis Obispo County - especially along Highway 58 near the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The especially wet winter has led to an explosion of wildflowers along the Central Coast. The 2017 season is expected to

Some call San Luis Obispo County’s Carrizo Plain “California’s Serengeti.” Others see it as a great big stretch of nothing (except during wildflower season). For them, one or two visits in a lifetime are enough.

That’s OK. It’s good, even, because the peace and solitude of this Serengeti would be ruined if it were to become, say, a Sequoia.

Now, though, a different sort of threat faces Carrizo.

It’s on the list of 27 national monuments under review by the Interior Department at the behest of President Donald Trump, who accuses the three previous presidential administrations of locking up millions of acres of land and water.

If these protected lands lose their national monument status, that leaves them open to development, including oil, gas and mineral exploration.

»» HOW TO COMMENT: To comment on Carrizo Plain and other national monuments, go to http://tinyurl.com/msu8p86. Comments are due July 10.

That’s a real possibility for Carrizo Plain, which the U.S. Geological Survey has described as “an oil- and gas-prone region with high volume potential,” according to Oil&Gas Journal.

National monuments already have gone through extensive vetting; there’s no reason to backtrack — other than to exploit their resources.

We believe it’s important to stand up for all national monuments, especially one in our backyard.

Johna Hurl, Carrizo Plain National Monument manager, talks about the monument's unique features during a tour to commemorate its 15th anniversary Wednesday, June 1, 2016.

Undeveloped, unspoiled public land is becoming scarce in California. For the sake of our kids, our grandkids and their grandkids, we need to at least protect what’s left.

To do otherwise is as shortsighted as it is greedy.

Consider what Carrizo Plain offers:

▪  It’s the largest stretch of native grassland remaining in California.

▪  It includes Painted Rock, a horseshoe-shaped sandstone formation adorned with Native American pictographs and considered one of the more significant examples of Native American rock art in the world.

▪  The San Andreas Fault passes through Carrizo, providing geologists with an excellent laboratory. It also provides geology students with an opportunity to step outside the classroom for some real-world observation.

▪  It’s home to several federally listed rare and endangered plants and animals, including the San Joaquin kit fox and giant kangaroo rat.

▪  It supports important populations of tule elk and pronghorn antelope roam.

▪  Soda Lake, a nearly 5-square-mile alkali lake that’s bright white throughout much of the year, is a natural wonder.

▪  Caliente Mountain, San Luis Obispo County’s highest peak at 5,106 feet.

▪  Did we mention the wildflowers?

This year’s “superbloom” brought thousands of visitors to Carrizo. Thanks to social media, those numbers will grow exponentially in the future.

If you doubt that, consider these reviews on Yelp, all by out-of-towners:

“Way better than expected, coming back early next superbloom.”

“Simple and plain, the best place to see wildflowers in California. I was in awe.”

“Washboard dirt roads didn’t sway us. We were all here for wildflower porn.”

And the superbloom isn’t the only draw:

“...it’s for people that appreciate beauty in ALL forms, not just wildflowers,” wrote another Yelper.

car and flowers
Carrizo Plain at the Soda Lake overlook on March 26, 2017. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

On a practical note, this attention translates into tourist dollars. That means more jobs and tax revenue to keep our streets paved and our police and fire stations equipped.

Even more important, for our sanity and serenity we need to hang on to remants of the old, rugged California — places that haven’t been invaded by freeways and strip malls and oil wells.

We urge Central Coast residents — including individuals, organizations and elected officials — to let Washington, D.C., know that California’s Serengeti must be preserved.

How to comment on national monuments:

Go to www.regulations.gov/comment?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001 to comment online. Send letters to Monument Review, MS-1530; U.S. Department of the Interior;1849 C St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20240. Comments must be received by July 10.

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