It was a great victory for everyone who loves the outdoors when President Obama created the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on October 10, 2014. Monument status brought immediate protection to roughly 350,000 acres of chaparral and forest, stretching across a spectacular mountain range that rises from the floor of the heavily populated greater Los Angeles area.
Before freeways and urban sprawl made their mark on this region, the beloved naturalist and conservationist John Muir paid tribute to the fierce intensity of the San Gabriel Mountains, referring to “the wildness of this southland, pure and untamable as the sea.”
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this “backyard” national monument, which lies within a ninety-minute drive of more than 17 million Los Angeles-area residents. It’s the most urban forest in the country, with more than four million annual visitors. The San Gabriel Mountains also provide nearly 30 percent of L.A. County’s water and more than 70 percent of its open space.
These public lands offer a lifeline to those seeking refuge from the hustle and stress of modern life. Within the monument, important cultural and historical sites dot the landscape, along with picnic areas, campgrounds and an expansive trail network.
The U.S. Forest Service is charged with conserving the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and ensuring it remains accessible to all. The agency recently released a draft management plan and environmental analysis, outlining proposals covering the next ten to fifteen years. Although the draft is filled with good intentions, it falls short when it comes to ensuring diverse communities can experience nature in their backyard mountain range.
Given its proximity to Southern California’s multicultural urban center, the San Gabriels have the opportunity to be an on-ramp to the outdoors for entire communities who currently don’t get enough time in amazing, wild places.
That’s why it’s so important that the public speak up for a stronger plan. Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to share our thoughts with the U.S. Forest Service, and push for a plan that will help draw more people to experience and learn about nature. A public comment period on the draft management plan is already underway and you can make your voice heard: Tell the Forest Service to set clear objectives to improve the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument plan.
We’re asking the Forest Service to include two things that will help residents of nearby communities enjoy the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument:
- Set specific benchmarks for projects that will highlight historical and cultural landmarks and engage and educate visitors from diverse communities throughout L.A. County and beyond.
- Include a public transportation strategy that will enable people without cars to experience the monument, while also relieving traffic congestion on winding mountain roads and preventing overcrowding in parking areas.
The window to ask the Forest Service to include these important pieces ends on November 1, 2016. The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument deserves your support!
Photos were provided by the Wilderness Society.