When President Obama told Congress he was going to use his "phone and pen" to push policy without lawmakers' permission, seal and seabird conservation probably didn't top his agenda.
Nevertheless, Obama on Tuesday unilaterally expanded a national monument in Northern California, adding new protections for thousands of acres of Pacific coastline. The newly protected land, which is about 100 miles up the coast from San Francisco, is part of the Point Arena public lands — a swath of coastline that provides habitat for a string of threatened creatures, including an endangered beaver species and the California red-legged frog.
It's also a marine-mammal bonanza, according to the White House, which billed it as home to "harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and an occasional elephant seal."
But though seal habitat is hardly a hot topic in the endless Beltway battles, Obama's monument designation nevertheless found its way into the ongoing power struggle between the president and congressional Republicans.
To expand the monument, Obama used the Antiquities Act, a century-old statute that allows the president to create national monuments by use of executive action. Obama has now used that authority to make 10 such designations. Without it, creating monuments would require an act of Congress.