Not far from Monterey and Santa Cruz, talus caves with tunnels and spectacular spires formed by the eruption of Neenach Volcano more than 23 million years ago rise out of the Gabilan Mountains.
The Pinnacles geologic gem, home to the California condor and settled in different eras by American Indians, early Spanish settlers, homesteaders from the East and Basque sheepherders, deserves to be elevated to a national park.
Pinnacles has national monument status, one of 18 created by President Theodore Roosevelt in the first three years after the Antiquities Act of 1906 passed. That act came at a time when the nation's natural and historic heritage was being desecrated; it allows a president -- without congressional approval -- to protect "objects of historic and scientific interest" on federal lands by creating national monuments.
Only Congress can designate a national park, but many of the nation's national parks began as president-created national monuments, including four national parks in California.
From Lassen Volcanic to Death Valley to Joshua Tree to the Channel Islands, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt created national monuments in California that Congress eventually made into national parks.
Pinnacles should be the fifth.
The timing seems right. U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, has been working on this since he was elected to Congress in 1994.
With the co-sponsorship of Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, the Pinnacles National Park Act (HR 3641) passed the House on a voice vote Tuesday.
Sen. Barbara Boxer nearly got the bill to President Barack Obama on Thursday, the last day before the congressional recess.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska agreed to allow the bill to move to the floor for a vote.
Unfortunately, some senator put an anonymous "hold" on the bill -- using arcane Senate rules -- because of an unrelated public lands dispute.
The full Senate should take up the Pinnacles National Park Act when it returns in September.