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Fighting for public land 

We must continue to speak up for Carrizo Plain

When I was a child, I lived for my summers spent on the Central Coast. I'd spend the school year dreaming of beaches and beautiful weather as dreary rains carried on outside, and I'd count the days until I'd get to hike and bike with my family on California's extraordinary public lands.

My father made the decision to make this dream our reality 15 years ago when he bought the Kaleidoscope Inn. We now run the bed and breakfast together, making it our family business to provide experiences like I had as a child. Hundreds of visitors come through the inn every year looking to our protected public lands as a destination for rest and respite. Scenic and recreational attractions like Carrizo Plain National Monument are not just the foundation for my wonderful quality of life—they're the backbone of my business and the local economy.

That's why I'm alarmed by the Trump administration's recent review of our beloved Carrizo Plain and other national monuments. It's frightening enough that the administration is trying to strip protections from these important natural, cultural, historic, and scientific sites. But the review process has also been marked by a complete lack of transparency, and that is simply unacceptable.

On Aug. 24, the Department of the Interior issued a summary of the national monument review that contained no information about how and which national monuments would be impacted. An incredible 2.8 million Americans took time out of their busy lives to raise their voices and participate in the process, and they are being left in the dark about this sham review. The public deserves to see the full recommendations prepared by Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his team.

Businesses like mine count on the permanency of these protections to fuel tourism and outdoor recreation—decisions that could threaten our livelihoods need to remain visible and well within our purview. By threatening protections for our public lands and withholding information from the American people, the administration shows it's willing to play games with local economies and the communities that depend on them.

It's safe to say that a large portion of the businesses in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties rely on tourism dollars to survive and that Carrizo Plain has a huge impact on the economy around here. And while I've seen it firsthand in my own community, I've learned that this is the case across the board for regions adjacent to a national monument. A 2017 study by nonpartisan Headwaters Economics found that the regional economies adjacent to 17 national monuments, including Carrizo Plain, all experienced growth following the national monument's designation.

Travelers come through our inn for so many different reasons, most aimed at experiencing the natural beauty of the Central Coast. People come to hike, bike, or catch glimpses of astonishing birds that soar over Carrizo Plain. Even guests who don't come here specifically to visit the monument end up being drawn to it, especially during the springtime when the hillsides burst with vibrant blooms. We regularly help guests drawn to the region for R&R, wine tasting, or even a destination wedding to create a mini road trip adventure through the plains, breathtaking roads, and beyond. People can come here knowing nothing about our extraordinary national monument and end up completely enchanted by it.

As the region has become more and more popular, the booming tourist economy has provided a slew of jobs and opportunities for residents. A study from Headwaters Economics shows that in 2015, tourism and travel provided 53,354 jobs in the communities surrounding Carrizo Plain. Carrizo and other public lands are also tremendous drivers of our state's outdoor recreation economy, generating approximately 691,000 jobs and $92 billion in consumer spending each year. The current administration needs to look at these national monuments for their economic value and see that this review just doesn't make sense.

Secretary Zinke recognizes that the comments received were "overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments," and I hope that his recommendations reflect this support. I urge Central Coast residents to send a tweet to President Trump (@POTUS) and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) and tell them you support public lands and oppose any changes to Carrizo Plain and other national monuments.

As a young girl, I never dreamed I'd have to fight for a place with so many gifts. But I am, and we must—my business, our economy, and the future of our protected public lands depend on it. Δ

Beki Beauchamp is innkeeper, manager, and events coordinator of the Kaleidoscope Inn in Nipomo. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter to the editor and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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