“Monument status for San Gabriels, but much work to do” by By Daniel Rossman and Belinda Faustinos was originally published as a guest commentary published in the Pasadena Star News Friday, February 13, 2015
The decade-long effort to protect our beloved San Gabriel Mountains is far from over. No sooner had the celebration concluded after the president’s welcome designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument than we began the next leg of our journey-securing stronger protection for wild places within the monument, safeguarding important areas outside the proclamation boundary and ensuring the community’s vision of increased access for all to use and enjoy these unique wild lands is realized.
Anyone who lives and works in the San Gabriel Valley, as we do, cannot help but be inspired by our majestic backyard of rugged mountains and snow-covered peaks. The San Gabriel Mountains extend across both the Angeles and the San Bernardino national forests, two of the busiest in the country, drawing more than 5 million visitors each year. But the forests are woefully underfunded and underserviced and often lack adequate trail signs, visitor information, staffing and culturally appropriate education programs. At many popular destinations, there are not enough parking spaces, riverbank trails, trash containers or restrooms. Within Los Angeles’ urban communities, the shortage of parks and open space is shortchanging our children. Securing permanent protections for the San Gabriel Mountains and the surrounding area will help solve many of these problems.
San Gabriel Mountains Forever is a diverse partnership of local residents, cities, businesses, faith and community leaders, health and environmental justice organizations and recreation and conservation groups working collaboratively to safeguard this majestic mountain range. Over the years, we have worked closely with Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, to develop legislation we believe will accomplish many of our goals through National Recreation Area, Wilderness, and Wild and Scenic River designations. In the 113th Congress, Chu introduced a comprehensive bill to establish a National Recreation Area for the San Gabriel Mountains (H.R. 4858) – a bill broadly supported by the local community. As we worked to secure passage of this measure, we continued to discuss with the congresswoman and the local communities additional legislation to establish wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations within the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests.
With time running out in the 113th Congress and the House not moving Chu’s legislation, we turned to the Obama administration to take action to protect our treasured landscape. And, on Oct. 10, 2014, our efforts were rewarded when the president officially designated the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument using his authority under the Antiquities Act. The new monument was not as large as many had hoped for, and did not include specific areas within the Angeles National Forest that we believed were equally deserving of protection and new management. However, this was a remarkable accomplishment, culminating many years of hard work and dedication by a multitude of individuals, businesses and organizations. Finally, the San Gabriel Mountains will receive the special attention, resources and management they deserve as a national monument. And make no mistake, this designation will positively impact the entire Angeles National Forest. As more resources come as a result of the monument, more rangers and staff will be hired, newer education programs will be created and the entire forest will benefit.
For San Gabriel Mountains Forever, the monument designation will help guide future efforts. The coalition will actively participate in the development of the management plan for the new monument and continue its efforts for additional protections for the San Gabriels and surrounding area through legislation that may include expanding the new monument through legislation, establishing a National Recreation Area, and wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers designations for areas of particular conservation concern. To this end, we will continue to work with Chu and other members of the California congressional delegation and to engage the various communities who cherish LA County’s greatest treasure. We are determined to bring more resources and protections to areas outside of the monument, including the Arroyo Seco and Cucamonga Canyon, and we encourage anyone with the same goal to join us in these efforts.
Much work remains, and we are committed to fulfilling our mission of permanently protecting and increasing access to the San Gabriel Mountains and Rivers.