Monument Monday: California Coastal National Monument Celebrates 14th Anniversary
Pacific waves explode onto offshore rocks, spraying white water into the air. Sea lions bark as they haul out of the surf to find refuge from predators, and birds whirl above.
It’s hard to imagine the rugged California coastline without its iconic offshore rocks. Visitors from around the world photograph them, artists paint them, and writers are inspired by them. Most of these rocks are part of the California Coastal National Monument, designated by President Clinton in 2000 and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Stretching 1,100 miles from the spruce- and redwood-lined shores near the Oregon border to the famous surf towns near San Diego, the monument comprises more than 20,000 small islands, rocks, exposed reefs and pinnacles.
Because the monument is entirely offshore, most visitors view it from communities, state parks and scenic highway pullouts along the coast. Furthermore, the surrounding waters and even the sub-tidal portions of the rocks themselves are under state jurisdiction. This unique situation has made partnership management essential to protecting natural resource values and providing for public enjoyment. California’s departments of Fish and Wildlife and State Parks are core managing partners with the BLM. Other agencies, communities and organizations - more than 40 in all - are working as partners to interpret and conserve monument resources. Partner activities range from seabird nest monitoring to museum display creation to guided interpretive hikes. The “Discover the Coast” initiative will be kicked off this spring by the BLM and its partners to celebrate and strengthen these coastal partnerships.
The monument’s “best kept secret” is not located in one particular area. It is revealed to those who make the effort to take a closer look. These visitors learn that the offshore rocks are so much more than a scenic coastal backdrop. They are literally packed with life. Marine birds nest and roost on the tops and sides of larger sea stacks, and each bird species is partial to choosing just the right site. Pigeon guillemots build nests in crevasses, while common murres’ eggs are placed right on top of the rocks – the eggs are shaped so that if disturbed, they won’t roll off into the ocean! Harbor seals have a high fidelity to individual rocks and return to the same one each time. Below the water’s surface, barnacles, sea stars, anemones and a wealth of other intertidal life cement themselves to every inch of available space, taking advantage of one of the few stable places in this ever-changing environment.
Even though the California coastline is home to millions of residents and visitors from around the world, the offshore rocks will remain pristine and wild for future generations because of their protection as a national monument.