Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/ Whittier Daily News

Tell me about the Habitat Authority’s work.

The Habitat Authority manages a 3,870-acre wildland nature preserve in the western Puente Hills, and we manage it primarily for the biological preservation as well as low-impact recreation and outdoor education. We do a lot of things… We have about 3 rangers that patrol the hills to help keep the hills clean and safe. The rangers also provide a Junior Ranger outdoor education program free of charge for local schools. We do a lot of native habitat restoration on our property with over 200 acres worth so far, and we’re in the process of restoring approximately 100 more acres.

We also provide additional outdoor education programs through our Hills Alive program to grades K-6. The Hills Alive program and our Junior Ranger program are also supported by our volunteers. We’ve got a great volunteer team that help with all of our outreach as well as trail watch for us. They act as the rangers’ eyes and ears out on the trail because we can’t be everywhere at once.

We also do many other projects, like we’re in the process of doing a wildlife study, a trail-use survey, and then we also have the great pleasure of working on a multi-agency project that installed LA County’s first and only purpose built wildlife underpass at Harbor Blvd. The underpass strengthened the viability of Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor. Before the underpass, we didn’t have proof of bobcats using the connection, but now we do know that. Bobcats are one of the top predators of the food chain. There were a lot of coyotes killed on Harbor Blvd, but now they use the underpass along with other small animals.

How will the Authority benefit from being designated as a national monument?

The National Park Service affiliation would help raise awareness about the significant resources in the Puente Hills, and the importance of preserving them resulting in increased intrinsic value. By including the Puente Hills, it would increase partnership with the National Park Service with technical assistance or interpretation. It would also bring prestige and recognition to the area. It would help protect public investments.

What are the main challenges the Habitat Authority faces?

We’re trying to accomplish a lot with a limited budget is one challenge. We do provide a lot of education activities through our Junior Ranger program. I think the community and trail users can benefit from even more outdoor education to learn more about the natural landscape and the hills around them to increase stewardship appreciation.

Another challenge is balancing recreation with long-term sustainability of natural resources. It’s a matter of finding a balance between preserving the environment and also providing outstanding low-impact recreation opportunities for the community.

What advice would you have for someone interested in the conservation area?

Follow your passion. If you’re interested in it, pursue it, read about it, volunteer your time, and become your own expert. If you do what you enjoy, I don’t think you could go wrong.

Any last thoughts to our readers?

The Puente Hills are a great place to hike and enjoy nature. If you come out on our trails, you’ll see all different types of wildlife and habitat. You can learn more about us by going to habitatauthority.org for trail tips. Visit our Facebook page and Twitter account to learn more about the flora and fauna and what we’re up to and how to get involved, or how to participate in activities in the Puente Hills.

We are always looking for volunteers and our trainings are in January. We are accepting applications at all times. We enjoy working collaboratively with the local communities around us (Whittier, La Habra Heights, Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights), and we even partner with other organizations in the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor. We are the western end of the Puente-Chino Hills Corridor, and our long-term goal is to create a sustainable preserve and part of that includes connecting to Chino Hills State Park.

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