Following this winter’s much-needed heavy rains, our region exploded with wildflowers as a historic “superbloom” blanketed our majestic landscape. Thousands of visitors flocked to San Luis Obispo and the Carrizo Plain National Monument to see the stunning cascade of wildflowers, an event so vibrant and expansive it was even captured in photographs taken by NASA satellites.
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But as San Luis Obispo’s residents and visitors marveled at the magic of Carrizo Plain, President Trump signed an executive order threatening to undermine its national monument status. This short-sighted attempt to “review” our national monuments and public lands is an egregious assault on our way of life, our shared connection to the land and a vast miscalculation of the vital economic role Carrizo Plain serves in our community. With only a few days left in the administration’s brief public comment period (closing July 10), I urge Central Coast residents to make their voices heard about the need to protect our region’s natural treasure.
Trump’s executive order undermines the Antiquities Act and threatens to strip us of our safeguards for the Central Coast’s most precious places. The Antiquities Act was signed by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 to safeguard and preserve U.S. public lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy. Sixteen presidents — eight Republicans and eight Democrats — have used this authority to protect places like the Grand Canyon and our own Carrizo Plain National Monument.
Permanent protection of Carrizo Plain is key to our region’s tourism industry, which attracts visitors from around the globe and reinforces our economic future and quality of life. Travel and tourism are important to communities in the Carrizo Plain region, representing about 19 percent of total private wage and salary employment. In fact, the recent superbloom, recognized for its splendor in countless magazines, articles, and travel guides, brought thousands of tourists to San Luis Obispo who stayed in our hotels, ate at local restaurants, and shopped in our stores.
It is no mistake that San Luis Obispo has been recognized as one of the most desirable places to live in the country, according to a 2016 survey by Liveability.com. Citing its close proximity to beautiful geography and picturesque landscapes, our residents have proclaimed our region to be one of the “happiest places on Earth.”
As your mayor, I am appalled by the contempt leaders in Washington, D.C. are demonstrating toward our natural resources and our way of life. There is no need to “review” the status of Carrizo Plain, nor any other national monument that has been painstakingly protected by federal law.
I urge you to join the effort to push back against this assault on our local economy and regional identity. The Department of the Interior’s brief comment period closes in just a few days, on July 10. Please voice your concerns over these threats to Carrizo Plain and other monuments by visiting www.monumentsforall.org.
We must make our voices heard — for our children, our grandchildren, and for our economic future here in San Luis Obispo. We will stand in opposition to any threats to our beloved Carrizo Plain National Monument.
Heidi Harmon is mayor of San Luis Obispo.