Blog

Thank you, Senator Kamala Harris, for introducing public lands legislation!

SG Twitter Example 1.png

Senator Kamala Harris has introduced the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act today, which will protect wild lands, open space and rivers and improve recreation opportunities in Los Angeles County. Stretching from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino, these open space resources, particularly the San Gabriel Mountains, are the recreational “backyard” for more than 17 million Southern Californians. This legislation mirrors two bills previously introduced by Congresswoman Judy Chu, the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (HR2323) and the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act (HR3039).

This is a historic milestone in the effort to protect and restore the best remaining parts of our public lands in the Los Angeles region. The Harris bill will:

  • Expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by adding approximately 109,143 acres in the upper Los Angeles River watershed; and
  • Establish the San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area for the San Gabriel and San Jose Foothills and the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel Rivers comprised of over 51,000 acres; and
  • Expand wilderness area designations within the San Gabriel Mountains by 2,027 acres; and
  • Designate 25.3 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Senator Harris has also introduced the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act in the Senate. The bill will restore forests and fisheries, protect wild lands and streams and improve recreation opportunities in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties.

Help us say thank you to Senator Harris by posting on social media: Thank you Senator @SenKamalaHarris for introducing legislation that will protect precious areas of #NorthwestCalifornia and the #SanGabrielMtns! #ProtectCAPublicLands

or by sending an email to her office.

amigos de los rios logo

Organizational Spotlight: Amigos De Los Rios, Claire Robinson

amigos de los rios logo

Tell us a little about Amigos De Los Rios and the work you do there. 

Amigos De Los Rios – ‘The Emerald Necklace Group’ is a mission-driven 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 2003. Los Angeles as a mega region that has great weather, incredible biodiversity and a wonderfully diverse cosmopolitan population.  Yet our metropolitan area is very challenged in terms of environmental health, public health outcomes for residents and lacks the vibrant civic culture most world class cities support. We are working to create a robust network of natural infrastructure parks and trails to connect the Mountains of the Upper Watershed to the Sea:  a convergent grey and green infrastructure network which reflects the diverse cultural heritage of LA – A network that supports protection of biodiversity, ensures a sustainable water resources future, celebrates all the various world views we represent to each other and complements Public Transit infrastructure.

What inspired you on your career path?

My Mother inspired me on this career path as a “Parkitect” (word my daughter invented) and Sustainable City Planner.  Women comprise less than 14% of the architecture profession -I have lots of #METOO examples – it has been hard to protect my feminist point of view in urban planning and design.  Mom was a single mother, Physical Therapist and champion of her three daughters. She had us volunteer in her PT department to help people with broken fingers, significant burns, broken legs, arms necks, and various other challenges. She was tireless until she was diagnosed with and died of cancer at age 44 nine short months’ later –leaving three young girls on our own.  Right before she passed she said she was so proud of me for studying architecture -she know I would try to do for cities what she did for people helping them reconnect disconnected natural functions and restore their health.

What role does Amigos De Los Rios play in the Nature For All coalition?

The role we play is we play in Nature For All is we have the hard-won knowledge needed to implement complex nature-based parks and trails within the most disadvantaged communities. We challenge Agencies to be more progressive – to be more efficient – often at our peril as a tiny organization. We believe people need to see change viscerally by walking into a beautiful complex space where collective spirit and nature thrive: nature-based public spaces that support children, families – residents of all ages in very practical and tangible ways. We embrace all the material challenges of bringing our vision of a regional Emerald Necklace Greenway network into the real world – a messy, process that takes total focus concentration and tenacity beyond words. Not a political process but a combination of thought and hard work – stewarding the material alchemical collaborative processes that result in living park.

What is Amigos De Los Rios currently working on related to the San Gabriel Mountains?

The San Gabriel Mountains are the source of inspiration for our Urban Emerald Necklace Collaborative Vision and process – based on a collective impact ethos. Currently we are participating in the Community Collaborative to plan the National Monument in alignment with our Emerald Necklace Expanded vision reflective of cultural and biodiversity. We are working with Forest Service on multi-cultural kiosk in Copper Canyon.  And we are bring the vegetation, biodiversity and cultural history of the natural areas into the urban core in our projects. My personal goal as a mentor has been to create an inspiring and safe studio space for next generation designers (protecting women and other minorities as they enter the field) to plan and build healthy cities and implement nature parks that dazzle, protect, inspire us and make us all smile.

What is your ideal way to spend a day in the San Gabriel Mountains?

We live and work in Altadena at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains — our family life unfolds with the mountain as backdrop, we enjoy the changing weather conditions and light reflected by San Gabriel Mountains every day. Our Emerald Necklace Watershed Stewardship Volunteer events take place every Saturday -so ironically I have very little leisure time to actually spend in the mountains. But my husband, who is an avid hiker, has taken me on a few gorgeous walks to streams within the forest that are as beautiful as any Renaissance painting. One afternoon near a mountain stream can serve to inspire my urban bioswales and nature park design and advocacy work for months.  I love grabbing a handful of forest soil and enjoying the tiny components of the duff.

Spotlight on Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor with Andrea Gullo (Executive Director, Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority)

0_0506_NWS_WDN-L-RESTORED01
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.

Spotlight on Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor with Claire Schlotterbeck (Executive Director, Hills For Everyone)

claire schlotterbeck

What was it like when you established the Chino Hills State Park, and how are things different now?

Claire: The act of establishing the state park has been going on and is still going on over the last 41 years. There wasn’t like a single moment where it happened. The group Hills For Everyone was formed in 1977 by a young man at the time named Dave Meyers, and he kind of ran into one too many bulldozers one day—ripping up hills that he hiked in as a boy and he couldn’t bear to watch the loss anymore. So, he joined forces with other like-minded people and formed Hills For Everyone. They thought of making it 4 regional parks because the park covered 4 counties—Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and San Diego—and that was too complicated, so they settled on a state park.

He hiked the hill so many times that he knew the lay of the land, and designed the park himself. He designed it in a unique way, along ridgeline boundaries so that once you’re inside the park, you don’t know that there are millions of people on the other side. When he started, there were 9 million people on the other side, and now, there are 18 million. One thing the ridgeline does is protect water quality for wildlife. Pesticides and herbicides cannot contaminate the water for wildlife that live there. Currently, we are not finished with the ridgeline. The eastern side is not in state ownership yet.

What it feels like is… I mean extraordinary. I get to see it everyday. “Rest my eyes on the natural ridgelines, and there is something that comes from that that’s rejuvenating.”

How are things different today?

Claire: A lot more people. A lot of youth. Some people who are not treating it well… We’re having a lot of problems with mountain bikers. We have 90 miles in the park and that’s not enough for them. They cut new trails with chainsaws, shovels, and hand saws. They go too fast, so they’re ruining the experience for people who are walking. That’s been a real disappointment.

The next real disappointment is that they were never there to help establish the park, unlike the horseback riders and the hikers. Mountain bikers never showed up to testify like the other groups. There were no mountain bikers before.

What are the main challenges you face to save the Puente-Chino Hills?

Claire: Of course, finding funding to buy the land. That’s the only way it’s eventually saved.

It’s to develop the political will among decision makers at all levels (federal, state, and local) to do it. I’ve never seen anything fail. You can save just about anything as long as there’s a political will. Term limits (every 6 years, every 8 years) have new people come in so you need to retell the story with every effort.

Make people feel like they can make a difference by saving the land. Many people say you can’t save the land, but there is political will to save the land. They want to see it saved, too. They just often don’t know what to do, don’t know the steps you need to take to save land. But, we’ve taken those steps, so a lot of things are in place. Now, it’s a matter of finding funding to save the land.

You always need a willing seller. There’s a lot of land to be saved, and you can’t do it unless you have a landowner to save it; you have work to do.

Funding for conservation efforts is more important than ever. What are some challenges that you encounter in obtaining funding?

Claire: Proposition 68 was a really big step forward. We used to have regular parks bond efforts that passed every 4 years. They weren’t as big but still useful. One other issue we have to fight is that a lot of money goes to Northern California because land is cheaper up there.

But down here is where the votes are. For a long time, Chino Hills State Park had good representation by Democrats and Republicans to bring funding.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has a program called CAPP (Conceptual Area Protection Plan) and that analyzes property for whether they’re worth saving or not. We have a CAPP in place and approved by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. All the undeveloped properties in the park are in that CAPP, so they’re eligible for funding from the Department.

California State Parks have been another source of funding, but they have been struggling for 8-9 years and haven’t acquired land down south. They’re the people who should be buying some of the land next to the State Park. In the end, that’s who the rightful manager should be.

In Orange County, we passed Measure M, a transportation sales tax measure, and part of the funding we negotiated that $243 million from that measure be set aside for landscape-level mitigation. Rather than put in some palm trees and ice plants at freeway intersections, now they need to buy really big important parcels of land, so it’s real mitigation.

We’re hoping Measure A will offer some funding for the Puente Hills side in LA county. There’s also funding from Habitat Authority.

A lot of people are working to get cap-and-trade money in protection of land. For instance, if you buy a big piece of land that would otherwise go to development, you get a double bang for your buck. You get to keep the natural resources there that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but you also reduce the number of cars traveled because the houses aren’t there so the cars aren’t there.

The best way to reduce GHG emissions is to save land.

Puente Hills for everyone

How do you envision the San Gabriel Mountains Recreation Area can benefit the Puente-Chino Hills area?

Claire: I think there are a couple of things. There’s a long-range vision that would link the San Gabriel Mountains—and those are the mountains i grew up hiking in—down the San Gabriel River and into the Puente-Chino Hills and the Puente-Chino Hills into the Santa Ana Mountains that go all the way to Mexico. That’s a link and would have to go through the San Gabriel River.

The other interesting thing I heard from an eagle expert, and he also works on condors. He told me there are condors in Mexico because we maintained the natural landscape of the Puente-Chino Hills, condors will be able to fly up to the Santa Anas, fly over the San Gabriel Valley, and back up the San Gabriel Mountains. Imagine that… a condor with a 9-foot wingspan flying over the San Gabriel Valley. It needs to have those natural ridgelines to create the right kind of draft to keep it afloat.

Obviously, we’re all connected and the more we’re connected, the healthier we all are.

What would make your job easier?

Claire: More hopeful people. For instance, a lot of things we’ve been doing recently are to fight projects next to the State Park that would harm the State Park. And we just won one. It was a 17 year battle, and the owner took the case to Supreme Court. And we won. People were saying you can’t fight city hall. We prevailed because we could.

My dad was a professor at Harvey Mudd College, and there would be teams of four students assigned to a professor. They would be assigned to solve real-life technical problems, like AQMD and other companies would come to Harvey Mudd with real-life problems for students to solve. My dad’s philosophy was to give the hardest problem to the newest students because they hadn’t learned that you couldn’t do it. Just like how we won.

It just takes a few really good people to go the distance. If you step into it wanting to save land—in whatever way you choose—it’s just amazing how much can get done with very few people. The more good people that step into it, the easier it’s going to be.

 

San Gabriel Mountains Beer Series, June 30

SGMBeerSeries_Banner-3

Join Nature for All for a fun day of beer tasting with local breweries, music, food trucks, and workshops and informational booths from environmental organizations and community groups. Attendees will learn about the work local groups are doing to protect and conserve our San Gabriel Mountains and other local natural resources while enjoying local beers brewed right here in Los Angeles County.

BACKGROUND

The Nature for All Stewards Group has partnered with local breweries, environmental non-profits, and community groups to host the first San Gabriel Mountains Beer Series this June 30th in Pasadena’s Central Park. Water is arguably the most important ingredient in brewing beer, and breweries in Los Angeles County get part of their water from rivers and streams that originate in the peaks of the San Gabriel’s. Local breweries depend on clean water and have a stake in protecting the San Gabriel Mountains and our watershed, which provide 1⁄3 of LA County’s drinking water.

BREWERIES

Eagle Rock Brewery – Los Angeles, CA
Frogtown Brewery – Los Angeles, CA
Mt. Lowe Brewing Co.  – Arcadia, CA
Pacific Plate Brewing Co. – Monrovia, CA
Alosta Brewing– Covina, CA

TICKETS

Pre-register today!sgmbeerseries.eventbrite.com
Regular Admission: $25 (includes 5 (8-oz.) samples)
VIP tickets: $40 each (includes 5 (8-oz.) samples, limited edition hat, stainless steel pint glass)

Ticket proceeds will benefit future projects by the Nature for All Stewards Group. 100% of transactions are tax-deductible.

FAMILY- FRIENDLY/ 21+

Our event is family-friendly and open to all ages, however you must be 21 years or older to enter the beer garden.

HOW TO GET THERE

We encourage you to take public transportation. The Del Mar Gold Line Station is located across the street, and there is a Metro BikeShare Station located in Central Park on Raymond Ave. For those driving, there is parking available on the street and in local parking garages.

If you have any questions, please contact us at: nfastewards@gmail.com

Leadership Academy Spotlight: Joel Glen

photo-2

How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?
I heard about the Leadership Academy through a Facebook link. What inspired me my mission to clean up the East Fork after my good friend passed away. I feel he would have wanted me to do something like this.

What was your project?
East Fork’s Golden Preservation was my project. I wanted to eliminate as much trash on the East Fork as possible and create awareness of what’s going on before it gets any worse.

What’s the best thing you learned?
I learned that people can come from a good cause. People really want make a difference, but sometimes, all we need is a leader. I was just one of the leaders. I wasn’t able to this by myself. Group effort was involved. Thanks again to Daisy from Trash Free Earth, as well as everybody who came out. You all are the true heroes.

What surprised you about the program or your work on the project?
What surprised me were a few things, including the amount of trash we picked up within two hours (713 pounds!) and the people who woke up early to help out. I’m still thankful for them. Other surprises were the obstacles I had to hurdle over to make my project go off… Those being people dropping out.

Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.
Being in the great outdoors means more to me than you’ll ever know. I met some of the greatest people in the mountains. I feel people who love the mountains know themselves and have good energy. They are happy go-lucky people, and I like that.

What’s your favorite way to spend your day in the San Gabriel Mountains?
Prospecting, camping, hiking, truck camping, All the above. Need I say more?

What has post-academy life been like?
Post-academy life has been great. We are planning more cleanups this year and will be teaming up with Convert-A-Can to create double the awareness. To sum it all up, I’ll put it in a song lyric: “We’ve only just begun.”