April 20th, 2012
04:16 PM ET
California outdoor enthusiasts take heart. On Friday President Barack Obama signed a proclamation designating Fort Ord on California’s Monterey Peninsula as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act.
“Fort Ord’s dramatic landscape lives in the memories of thousands of veterans as their first taste of Army life, as a final stop before deploying to war, or as a home base during their military career. This national monument will not only protect one of the crown jewels of California’s coast, but will also honor the heroism and dedication of men and women who served our nation and fought in the major conflicts of the 20th century,” Obama said in a statement.
By 2019, the Bureau of Land Management – a division of the Department of the Interior – will more than double the approximately 7,200 acres of land in the Fort Ord area that is already under its management authority. The transfer of additional land from the Army was scheduled under an existing base closure agreement and will come after the completion of an ongoing clean-up operation.
By designating the land as a national monument, it enters the BLM’s National Land Conservation System, which includes 27 million acres of protected federal land.
On a conference call with reporters Friday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey outlined some of the broader benefits of today’s proclamation.
Abbey pointed out that the area currently hosts more than 100,000 visitors annually, and is a key part of one of the largest bicycling events in the world – the Sea Otter Classic – which involves more than 10,000 athletes and 50,000 spectators.
“The public lands in California host more than ten million recreation visitors a year and this translates to an estimated contribution of around $980 million to local economies and 7,600 or so recreation related jobs,” Abbey said, explaining the economic impact of Friday’s proclamation. “Every year, as I mentioned, over 100,000 people already visit the Fort Ord area. We believe the designation itself will attract additional visitors and each of these visitors will provide a boost to the local economy.”
Although it’s unlikely the BLM will add many new jobs to handle management of the additional land, Salazar argued that independent studies show that the department’s ongoing conservation efforts create jobs in the aggregate.
“In a broad sense this is very much rooted in the president's economy and jobs priority for the nation,” Salazar said.
The Fort Ord area was originally established in 1917 as Camp Gigling and was used primarily as a military training base. It was renamed Camp Ord in 1939 and then Fort Ord in 1940. For nearly three decades from the late 1940’s to the 1970’s, Fort Ord served as a basic training site, and in 1975 it became home to the 7th Infantry Division (Light).
The 1991 independent base closing commission recommended that Fort Ord be closed and the 7th Infantry Division be relocated to Fort Lewis, Washington. For Ord was officially closed in September of 1994.