POINT ARENA -- Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Friday toured a rugged area of California's North Coast in a fact-finding mission to help decide if the area should be made a national monument.

Jewell joined state leaders and federal land managers to hike the Stornetta Public Lands in Mendocino County, and later attended a public hearing where hundreds of residents showed up, mostly to voice support for adding the lands to the protected area.

The Obama administration is determining whether to add the 1,600-acre tract to the California Coastal National Monument.

"Today I had a chance to hike this spectacular coastline and to see firsthand how important this area is for the community and for its economy -- from tourism to outdoor recreation," Jewell said, according to the Ukiah Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1frLKGZ ).

The coastal monument now is comprised only of small rock islands and reefs off California's coast.

The Stornetta Public Lands would be the first land-based addition to the monument, and add 10 miles to the California Coastal Trail.

The U.S. House of Representatives last summer passed a bill to expand the monument. Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat from San Rafael who introduced the bill, said a companion bill introduced in the U.S. Senate has stalled. But the president has the authority to make such a decision without congressional approval.

"There's a lot of uncertainty in the legislative process," Huffman told The Santa Rosa Press Democrat (http://bit.ly/17UG3zT ). Still, Huffman said Jewell's visit is "sending a message that we're going to make it happen one way or another."

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Information from: DAILY JOURNAL, http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/