Pinnacles plan would focus on linking people, resources

The House of Representatives approved a bill that would rename Pinnacles National Monument to a national park. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Pinnacles National Monument is accepting public comments on a draft general management plan that is set to guide its vision for the next 15 to 20 years.

The “Draft General Management Plan” is a 325-page document that goes out to interested residents, organizations and agencies requesting it for review.

The draft plan, for which comments can be submitted by Jan. 13, includes four potential alternatives for the future operations of the monument.

The point of the draft management plan is to lay out a vision regarding enjoyment of the monument, protection of natural and cultural resources, and overall management practices. It also addresses environmental consequences for each alternative.

Pinnacles, which might be in line to become the 59th national park with approval to proposed legislation in the House of Representatives, has not gone through an update to its management plan since 1975, as noted in the document. Since that time, the designated monument area has expanded from around 16,000 acres to more than 27,000 acres. The draft plan also points out that the respective populations of Hollister to the north and Soledad to the west have doubled in that same time frame.

The four alternatives laid out in the draft proposal include:

–    Continuing with the current management plan’s direction

–    Emphasizing a “backcountry experience”

–    Expanding visitor experiences

–    Or linking people with the monument’s resources

Although the report lists the backcountry-focused alternative as environmentally preferable, it concludes that the fourth alternative, linking people with the resources, is most preferred among the options. The report contends the preferred alternative also meets many of the same environmentally conscious criteria lauded in the backcountry idea.

With each alternative, the existing boundaries remain unchanged unless altered by legislation, according to the report.

Alternative D, the preferred choice, includes protection “to a high degree” of the natural ecosystem.

“Natural resource protection would be enhanced by a strong education and research emphasis,” according to the report. “Cultural resources would be managed to protect and interpret their significance, connect those resources within their broader regional history, and to provide visitors with opportunities to experience and learn about the interrelationship between humans and the environment,” it reads, noting that the monument would increase partnership efforts and outreach.

As for the “visitor experience,” the alternative calls for such uses as backcountry camping, new trails, and a focus for educational efforts on science and history.

Regarding facilities, on the east end they would be concentrated in the campground area, while a new visitor center would replace the current one there.

The report does not provide a cost estimate, while it points out there is no guarantee that funding will be available to complete its objectives.

It was developed by park staff members and program managers, local communities, government agencies, Indian tribes, stakeholder groups and individuals, according to the report.

Although public scoping meetings have already taken place, residents still can get involved and share their input.

See more at sanbenitocountytoday.com.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

To comment, residents can fill out a form at parkplanning.nps.gov/pinn; email them to [email protected]; or send them to the following address:

Karen Beppler-Dorn, superintendent

Pinnacles National Monument

Attn: General Management Plan Team

5000 Highway 146

Paicines, CA 95043

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