On Thursday, August 24, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will issue his recommendations for the Carrizo Plain National Monument per an order by President Trump to review the nation’s national monuments. In the preceding weeks, Los Padres ForestWatch (LPFW) has issued its own resounding recommendation: Leave Carrizo as is.
With its Save the Carrizo Plain project, LPFW has garnered support from across the state, with 28 former and current elected officials, four chambers of commerce, 140 businesses, 46 organizations, and over 4,000 residents of the Central Coast joining the cause, said LPFW Public Lands Advocate Rebecca August. Earlier this year, Save the Carrizo Plain initiated a campaign of letters, postcards, and social media advocacy for Californians to voice their support for maintaining the Carrizo Plain National Monument, which was established in 2001.
Business owners and residents worry any rescinding of the monument could heavily impact the S.L.O. and Santa Margarita economies, August said. A Headwaters Economics report on the Carrizo Plain region found increases in jobs (28%), population (25%), personal income (55%), and per-capita income levels (23%).
As of press time, it is unclear what changes Zinke may recommend for the monument, if any, LPFW Executive Director Jeff Kuyper said. “He may recommend that its size be reduced, or its protections be weakened; I doubt he would recommend the complete elimination of the Carrizo, but that’s another option,” Kuyper said. Trump’s declaration is fraught with legal ambiguity, he continued. “This is uncharted territory, but legal scholars are pretty much all in agreement that the President does not have the authority to unilaterally make changes to national monuments; that’s something only Congress can do.”
Though oil companies have attempted to extract resources in Carrizo, their attempts have been “unfruitful,” LPFW Conservation Director Bryant Baker said. The main energy resource revenue could come from large-scale solar energy fields, Kuyper said. Alternatively, commercial marijuana harvesting could develop in the region, particularly in the as-yet-unprotected northern Carrizo Plain.
Area organizations affiliated with managing the monument have been in a scramble ever since President Trump ordered the review, Baker said. “They have a monument advisory committee made up of ranchers, elected officials, tribal groups … a diverse group that can help direct decisions on the Carrizo Plain” whose actions have been “on hold” during the review period, Baker said. “It’s interesting that there’s this idea of returning these places to local control, and [the committee] disbanded.”
Kuyper called the process “unnecessary” and complicated, particularly with the Carrizo’s long history of land ownership disputes. “The whole process is unnecessarily stirring up uncovering some old wounds that had healed,” he said.
Whatever Zinke’s pronouncement, “August 24 will not be the final chapter,” he said.
A representative of the Department of the Interior has been reached for comment.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect additional officials, chambers, businesses,
organizations, and residents that have since joined LPFW’s defense.