Fate of the Carrizo Plain Still Unknown

ForestWatch statement on the summary report of the national monument review:

Today, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered his highly-anticipated recommendations to President Trump on the fate of more than two dozen national monuments that have been under review for possible reduction or elimination. The Carrizo Plain National Monument – located along California’s central coast region – was one of the monuments considered most vulnerable during the review.

The details of Secretary Zinke’s recommendations, however, are still publicly unknown. While Secretary Zinke’s office issued a news release and a two-page summary of his report, the report contains no substantive recommendations and only summarizes his review process over the last two months.

“Today’s hollow announcement is a great disservice to our nation’s public lands and to everyone who has spoken out in their defense,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch, a conservation organization based in Santa Barbara that led a coalition of organizations, businesses, and elected officials in support of retaining the Carrizo Plain’s monument status. “The nation – and especially the 2.8 million people who took time out of their busy lives to participate in this process and submit comments – are left in the dark by today’s announcement. Our public lands deserve better than this. How much longer must we wait until we learn the fate of this iconic landscape right here in our own backyard?”

Overwhelming Public Support

The Carrizo Plain National Monument has enjoyed overwhelming public support throughout San Luis Obispo, Kern, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties and beyond:

  • More than 140 local businesses wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke, highlighting the economic benefits of the Carrizo Plain’s monument status and urging him not to shrink its boundaries and to keep its protections in place;
  • More than 40 local elected officials – including 5 of the 7 mayors in San Luis Obispo County – wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke, expressing their support for the Carrizo Plain;
  • More than 50 community organizations including museums, botanic gardens, zoos, conservation organizations, historic societies, and others joined together to pledge their support for the Carrizo Plain;
  • Nearly 4,000 comments were submitted by central coast residents, specifically citing the Carrizo Plain and urging Secretary Zinke to keep the area protected.
  • Approximately 2.8 million public comments were received during the formal review period. More than 99% of those comments were in favor of keeping national monuments protected. 97% of comments pertaining to the Carrizo Plain were supportive of its monument status.

“After taking only three months to review the nearly 17 year-old Carrizo Plain National Monument and allowing only a short 60 days for public comment, it is unacceptable for the Interior Secretary to now withhold his full recommendations from the public,” said ForestWatch conservation director Bryant Baker. “We will continue to pressure the Administration – which obviously expects public outrage at the results of this sham review – to release information on whether they plan to shrink the Carrizo Plain or open this treasured landscape up to destructive activities like oil drilling.”

“There is overwhelming support, across political and socio-economic divides, locally and beyond, for making no change to the Carrizo Plain National Monument,” said ForestWatch public lands advocate Rebecca August. “If Zinke truly takes the will of the American people into consideration, he will leave its borders and protections untouched, so it can continue to be a resource to our communities for generations.”


Secretary Zinke’s report was ordered by President Trump in April, and affected all national monuments designated since 1996 larger than 100,000 acres. The 206,000-acre Carrizo Plain National Monument – designated by President Clinton in 2001 – was swept up in this review. This iconic landscape contains one of the last undeveloped grasslands in the Central Valley, contains a rich assemblage of prehistoric Native American rock art and cultural sites, and unique landmarks like Soda Lake, the San Andreas Fault, and Caliente Mountain, the highest point in San Luis Obispo County. It also provides habitat for unique and endangered plants and animals like tule elk, pronghorn antelope, California jewelflower, San Joaquin kit fox, and foraging habitat for California condors.

Next Steps

ForestWatch will continue to build support in the community for keeping the Carrizo Plain like it is, and will hold Secretary Zinke and the Trump Administration accountable to ensure that no changes are made to this iconic landscape. We have also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the full report and recommendations for the Carrizo Plain.

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