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Home to condors made a park

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
A California condor nests in a cranny near the High Peaks Trail in Pinnacles National Monument, Calif., on March 5, 2010. Scientists and conservationists say the main cause of death for the wild scavengers is lead poisoning from felled game and “gut piles” left by hunters who clean the carcasses in the field.

SOLEDAD, Calif. — Pinnacles National Monument, a 40 square-mile site that includes caves and towering volcanic rock formations popular with climbers, became the country's 59th national park on Thursday.

President Obama signed the bill creating the park.

The park holds cultural significance for several Native American tribes and is home to the endangered California condor.

A condor re-establishment program has been in place at Pinnacles since 2003. Every fall, captive-bred condors are released into the wild.

In 2010, for the first time in more than a century, a condor chick successfully hatched there. The park now manages a population of 32 free-flying condors. Other wildlife includes bobcats, cougars, coyotes and wild turkey.

The site in Central California was declared a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.

The bill to make it a national park was introduced by California Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and by Democratic Rep. Sam Farr and Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the House.

The park designation will help increase the number of visitors and boost area tourism, Boxer said.

The legislation also renames the current Pinnacles Wilderness as the Hain Wilderness after Schuyler Hain, an early conservationist whose efforts led to the establishment of the monument.

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