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Obama to designate 15K acres of California's old Ford Ord military base a national monument
SEASIDE, Calif. (AP) ' A rare California coastal wilderness that served as a training ground for generations of soldiers is set to be designated a national monument Friday in a presidential signing ceremony.
President Barack Obama plans to sign a proclamation that will protect nearly 15,000 acres of the decommissioned Fort Ord military base along Monterey Bay. It's the second national monument created by Obama in his three years as president.
About 1.7 million soldiers trained at the former U.S. Army post from the beginning of World War I through Operation Desert Storm. Now, the scenic area is a popular spot for hikers and mountain bikers and home to protected wildlife and plants.
The area coming under federal protection will preserve a major swath of the rare Central Coast Maritime chaparral ecosystem, a habitat unique to California. Mountain lions, deer, eagles and the protected California black legless lizard all make their homes at Fort Ord.
"The protection of our natural and cultural heritage is essential to providing people with an opportunity to experience the outdoors. It is great to see the administration take this action," said Brian O'Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, which helped organize support for the monument designation.
The preserve will formally be known as Fort Ord Soldiers National Monument.
At its peak, Fort Ord spanned a total of 28,000 acres, some of which was declared a Superfund site four years before its official closure in 1994. In 2008, the Army transferred to local authorities some 3,300 acres of the one-time infantry training center, still believed to be littered with unexploded ordnance.
Local officials at the time said they wanted to use the land for housing and expected cleanup of the area under their control to take five to seven years with the help of $100 million from the Army. A California State University campus, many homes and several big box retailers already occupy other sections of the former base.
A president's power to proclaim national monuments originates in the Antiquities Act of 1906.
President Obama in November designated a shuttered Army fort in Virginia with an important role in the nation's slavery history as a national monument. The site of the decommissioned Fort Monroe was where Dutch traders first brought enslaved Africans in 1619.