| By Andrew Fried, SAFE President | Aug. 11, 2017 |
When President Donald Trump ordered Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review the status of 27 national monuments created by three former presidents, many across the nation took it as a call to action to advocate on behalf of the monuments closest to their homes, and their hearts.
Los Angeles County is among them.
Here, Trump’s order raised concerns over the fate of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, designated by President Obama in October 2014. Indeed, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is a resource worthy of protection — and Trump’s order is cause for alarm, but not necessarily panic.
Hopefully Zinke and, in turn, President Trump, will recognize the value that the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument represents for the public:
“The designation will help ensure these lands remain a benefit for all Americans through rock art that provides a glimpse into ancient civilizations, an observatory that brought the world the cosmos, and thousands of miles of streams, hiking trails and other outdoor recreation opportunities,” says the U.S. Forest Service’s web page about the monument. (https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/san-gabriel-mountains-national-monument)
The monument includes approximately 342,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest and 4,000 acres of the San Bernardino National Forest.
“Soaring high above the Los Angeles Basin, the San Gabriel Mountains also are working lands that provide Angeleños 70 percent of their available open space and 30 percent of their drinking water,” the Forest Service website says. “The monument serves as the backyard to the nation’s second-largest urban center.”
The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is just one of 27 under review, but it is closest to the hearts and minds of northern L.A. County and San Bernardino County residents. Among the other monuments under review are the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, the Giant Sequoia National Monument here in California, several Pacific Ocean national monuments and land-based monuments in nine other states.
Fearing that Zinke’s review could result in the elimination of the monument, area leaders and activists have stepped up in support of retaining it. The public comment period closed July 10, and among those submitting defenses of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument were legislators, municipal leaders and activists.
Zinke is expected to make his recommendations by Aug. 24. Nationwide, more than 2 million comments have been submitted to Zinke about the 27 monuments under review. Across the Southland, numerous municipalities, elected leaders and nonprofit organizations have voiced their specific support for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
In fact, there is no discernible opposition to it.
Both of California’s U.S. senators have stepped up in support of not only the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, but also the other five national monuments within our state that are under review: Giant Sequoia, Carrizo Plain, Berryessa Snow Mountain, Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris wrote a joint letter to Zinke in June, advocating that all six monuments be retained.
“These iconic California landscapes and historic landmarks were designated by President Trump’s predecessors in recognition of their ‘historic or scientific interest’ to the nation and special meaning for our state,” Harris and Feinstein wrote. “On behalf of all Californians, we urge that these national monument designations are preserved with their present boundaries, to ensure these special places remain for generations to come.”
And, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, has actually introduced legislation — the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act — that would expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument boundaries and create a new National Recreation Area (NRA).
“The designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument has already brought incredible dividends to our area, increasing access, safety, and trash cleanup and creating more trails and services,” Chu said. “By expanding the national monument to include the western portions of the Angeles National Forest and establishing a National Recreation Area (NRA) along the foothills and San Gabriel River corridor, we can take this progress further by completing the vision of a city seamlessly and sustainably connected to its mountains, and mountains that are accessible for all.”
Also among those supporting the retention of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument are the City of Santa Clarita, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Sierra Club and the organization for which I am proud to serve as president, the nonprofit Safe Action for the Environment Inc.
All five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors signed letters sent to members of Congress in support of legislation that would protect the designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
“Efforts to establish the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument began in 2003, with the enactment of the San Gabriel River Watershed Study Act, which was undertaken to determine whether any portion of the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains would be eligible to be designated as a unit of the National Park Service,” said the supervisors’ letter. “President Obama’s declaration also required public input, which resulted in the creation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Community Collaborative. This nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service has 40 diverse members who work with the Forest Service to discuss priorities, resources, investments, management objectives and implementation practices related to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.”
The supervisors’ letter added: “President Trump’s executive order could wipe away the over 10 years of work that has been done to establish the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, including the previous and ongoing community engagement to ensure that stakeholders are all involved.”
Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes a large portion of the monument, said: “The San Gabriel Mountains provide significant opportunities to recreate in our own backyard and deserve our protection for generations to come.”
The Santa Clarita City Council’s support came in the form of a letter to Zinke, signed by all five members of the council, advocating for the retention of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument: “We view the designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument as [a] partnership effort to provide Santa Clarita’s residents with additional opportunities to enjoy the unique natural resources and open space of the community’s surrounding mountains.”
In our own letter of support from SAFE, we wrote: “The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument represents an important resource in not only preserving the region’s environment, but also in providing public access and use of the natural resources and open space that border the communities of northern Los Angeles County, including Santa Clarita as well as the communities of Acton, Agua Dulce, the City of Los Angeles and other unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. It’s fair to say that the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument will serve as a regional resource that benefits the entire county’s population of more than 10 million people.”
The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is a unique and valuable resource that’s worth protecting, not only for the benefit of the natural environment, but also for the benefit of the communities that surround it.
We sincerely hope President Trump’s administration concurs.
Andrew Fried is president of Safe Action for the Environment Inc. To find more information regarding SAFE, visit www.Safe4Environment.org.