Volunteer Report: Liliana Griego on Our June 2017 Trip to DC

liliana dc 1Liliana Griego is a graduate of the San Gabriel Mountain Forever Leadership Academy and a volunteer for SGMF who joined a group of coalition members on a trip to Washington, D.C. to advocate for protection of our national monuments. Below, she reflects on the experience.

What Surprised Me

I was shocked to learn about the network of tunnels and the subway system found under the Capitol that connects the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings. Unfortunately, only representatives are allowed to take the subway, but we did utilize the tunnels every time we traveled from one representative’s office to another. After visiting a few offices and speaking to different staff members, I also learned that they actually like when local representatives visit them and they strongly encourage their constituents to call if they have opinions on certain matters. A staff member shared a story with me about their office receiving so many calls on one particular issue that they couldn’t get any work done because the phones wouldn’t stop ringing. It was a fast way to bring attention to the issue and they felt pressure to resolve it as quickly of possible. This story showed me that our voices can be heard if we just make them loud enough.

What We Talked About

When I arrived in D.C., a weeklong event was being held by the Monuments for All campaign. The week was designated for two things — to draw attention to the national monuments that are currently being reviewed and to find ways to bring diversity and inclusion to those monuments. Local representative from different monuments were brought together to share their connection with their particular monument. Other Californians accompanied me, and we shared our stories with different congressional offices. We requested they make their voice heard on the floor, submit letters of opposition to any changes on the national monuments, and support any legislation that would benefit Californian monuments.

I was also given the opportunity to speak on a panel that brought different perspectives on how national monuments benefit different communities. Speakers addressed how beneficial monuments can be in terms of archeological preservation, growth of the local economy, and providing opportunities for urban youth to experience nature for the first time.

What I’m Still Thinking About

After returning from D.C., I felt energized, optimistic, and determined to keep the momentum going. After speaking to many representatives of the LA region, it was reassuring to hear that most of the offices are in support of our national monuments and they are fighting the good fight alongside us. I believe now the greater push is to continue engaging our communities and educating them on the importance of our national monuments. I now feel inspired to spread the word to my community and let them know that our representatives want and need to hear from us. Politicians and the people who work for them are in fact just people, and sharing your story with them can be impactful. Filling out those postcards actually does matter, making those phone calls can make a difference, and uniting together can bring change.

News: San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act Introduced

Great news: Congresswoman Judy Chu has introduced the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act today. The legislation, cosponsored by Congressman Adam Schiff, will protect 31,069 acres of wilderness — including two new areas, the Yerba Buena and Condor Peak Wilderness — and will also designate 45.3 miles of wild rivers.

Here’s a breakdown of what is being proposed.

Condor Peak PWACondor Peak Wilderness

Protection: 8,417 acres of public lands in the Lower and Upper Big Tujunga Watersheds. The unit rises abruptly from 1,800 feet on its southern flanks to more than 6,000 feet at its northern boundary near Mt. Gleason.

Benefits: It is hoped that the California Condor will return to this area — part of its historic habitat.

Yerba Buena Wilderness

Protection: 6,774 acres

Benefits: It’s one of the most spectacular undeveloped landscapes in the San Gabriel MountainsThis area offers opportunities for solitude in a natural setting and a variety of recreational experiences.

San Gabriel Wilderness Additions

Protection: 2,027 acres to be added to the existing San Gabriel Wilderness Areas

Benefits: Area has dramatically rising slopes and a variety of flora and fauna. The San Gabriel Wilderness Additions encompasses a portion of the San Gabriel River watershed, which is an important source of clean drinking water.

Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions

Protection: 13,851 acres to the established Sheep Mountain Wilderness. The Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions are contiguous with the existing wilderness and add important landscapes to the wilderness area’s northwest and southwest/southern flanks. These additions include several tributary canyons of the San Gabriel River, a portion of the San Gabriel Mountains crest between Mt. Baden Powell and Mt. Hawkins.

Benefits: The area is home to wildlife including its namesake Nelson Bighorn Sheep.

East, West and North Forks of the San Gabriel River

Protection:  25.3 miles in the forest’s largest watershed

Benefits: It’s the source of clean drinking water for Los Angeles County. All three forks support rare native fish populations. Easily accessible segments of the East Fork and North Fork provide outstanding family recreation opportunities, including picnicking, wading, and camping. The upper West Fork is the route of the Gabrieleno National Recreation Trail and the upper East Fork offers unique backcountry hiking, backpacking, and wild trout fishing.

Little Rock Creek

Protection: 20.2 miles

Location: Secluded and crystal-clear northern creek, which flows from the San Gabriel Mountains high country to the Mojave Desert.

On the Road: March 2017 DC Trip

Coalition members Duyen Tran (Wilderness Society), Roberto Morales (Sierra Club), Steve Evans (Friends of the River), Daniel Rossman (Wilderness Society), Dan Smuts (Wilderness Society) traveled to Washington, D.C. with volunteers Bryan Matsumoto, Michelle Okawa, Sandra Catell, and Jeremy Rogers to meet with the offices of our local legislators. Thanks to Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman Adam Schiff, and Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, as well as staff members of Congressman Tony Cardenas, Congressman Steve Knight, Congressman Paul Cook, Congressman Ed Royce, and Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein for taking the time to meet with us! (Photos by Bryan Matsumoto.)

Monument Plan Update: Community Collaborative Comments

20161027_120217-01Members of SGMF are on the San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative, which submitted comments to the Forest Service on the National Monument Plan. Statement included by our coalition chair, Omar Gomez: “We are proud to be working with the Collaborative to achieve mutual objectives by requesting that the Management Plan include specific objectives with a timeline and a monitoring plan in order to meet the intent of President Obama’s proclamation for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, particularly as it relates to access for all and visitor services.”