Obama asks lawmakers to 'do even more' on conservation

President Obama on Thursday urged Congress to "do even more" on conservation projects after signing legislation protecting a 35-mile stretch of Lake Michigan's coastline.

"There are currently dozens of conservation proposals before Congress — many supported by Democrats and Republicans — that would protect important lands across the country and help grow our economy," Obama said in a statement.

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The Sleeping Bear Dunes conservation law was the first public lands designation by Congress in more than five years — the longest lawmakers had gone without making a wilderness designation in nearly 50 years.

While urging lawmakers to take up additional conservation measures, Obama pledged to "continue to do my part to protect our federal lands for future generations to enjoy."

On Thursday, Obama designated the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands nature preserve as a national monument, the latest in a series of executive actions designed to advance the president's environmental policies.

Obama has used his executive powers aggressively to protect federal lands, establishing nine other national monuments across the country during his time in office.

But the president's efforts are expected to accelerate this year, with the return of counselor John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to former President Clinton, to the White House. 

After Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, Clinton used his executive authorities to implement environmental protections for federal lands. That included the move in 2000 to establish the California Coastal National Monument, which the Point Arena-Stornetta area will join.