America has a new national monument - the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in southern California!
The monument is within an hour’s drive of millions of people in the Los Angeles areas. The San Gabriel Mountains offer an unconventional Southern California “backyard” -- miles of wild terrain including majestic mountain peaks, clear rivers and countless recreational opportunities for urban communities that might otherwise not have access to nature.
President Obama announced the monument at a ceremony in California Oct. 10, protecting these national forest lands, which make up more than 70 percent of Los Angeles County’s scarce open space. The presidential authority to designate a national monument falls under the Antiquities Act of 1906, a law used on a bipartisan basis for more than a century to protect cultural and natural landmarks.
"Los Angeles has limited parks and green spaces, and its residents have high obesity and diabetes rates, so the San Gabriel Mountains are a healthy escape from the pavement and congestion,” said Daniel Rossman, The Wilderness Society’s regional associate and chairman of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever partnership. “In less than an hour, you can often be in one of the forest’s beautiful areas to fish in a rushing stream, hike to a dramatic waterfall or camp under towering pines."
The San Gabriel Mountains. Credit: Luke Ravitch, flickr.
The San Gabriel Mountains are popular for picnics, fishing, camping and nature-watching, but their great accessibility makes them vulnerable to wear and tear with limited staff and funding to police graffiti and neglect. National monument status will help preserve the area and improve visitor services, ensuring the forest can continue to provide more than one-third of L.A. County’s drinking water and serve as an outdoor recreation antidote to the the obesity and diabetes crises.
A bill introduced in June by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) included plans to safeguard the San Gabriels, but it gained little traction, emblematic of Congress’ failure to move land protection bills even with broad local support. Later, Rep. Chu asked the president to consider national monument designation. Now, using the Antiquities Act authority signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, President Obama has finished the job.
In an August 2014 poll, about 80 percent of Los Angeles County voters expressed support for protecting the San Gabriel Mountains and rivers, including preserving wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities and clean air and water.
Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation, recently highlighted the San Gabriels’ special significance to Latinos, who make up nearly half of all Los Angeles County residents and are uniquely at-risk for health issues that could be alleviated in part by easier access to outdoor activities. Additionally, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, and Michael L. Whitehead, CEO of a water utility serving the San Gabriel Valley, have each expressed strong support for monument status.
At a time when Congress is often mired in inaction, it is inspiring to see an urban-accessible and rare wildland like the San Gabriel Mountains receive the protection it deserves.
Photos of the San Gabriel Mountains
Credit: Steve Berardi,, flickr.
The San Gabriel Mountains form a natural boundary between Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert. They provide clean water and air to the nation’s second-largest urban areaand are also a critical haven for wildlife. The range contains some of the region’s most beautiful alpine and chaparral scenery, as well as habitat for Nelson’s bighorn sheep, endangered California condors, mountain lions, spotted owls and more.
Credit: Trey, flickr.
The San Gabriel Mountains are tremendously popular among hikers in search of a challenging climb and a great panoramic view out to the sea. As the above photo of Cucamonga Peak attests, the higher elevations are appropriately snowy in the winter time, despite the range’s proximity to sunny Los Angeles.
Credit: Daniel, flickr,
Mount Baden-Powell is among the tallest peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains at just under 9,400 feet, and it is a major recreational attraction both for the challenging hikes it offers and the fact that it is named for the founder of the Boy Scout movement. Hiking up Baden-Powell takes you through an astonishing array of vegetation and terrain.
Credit: Al Herrmann, flickr.
The mountain range is the signature feature of the Angeles National Forest. Elevation in this diverse stretch of chaparral, pine, fir and mountain crags ranges from 1,200 to more than 10,000 feet. A monument can help retell the historic and multicultural heritage of the range to more people.
Credit: Michael Huey, flickr.
As one of the few remaining open spaces in the region, the Angeles National Forest is a vital refuge for people who don’t get to spend much time in nature. Millions of people visit the national forest every year, but this accessibility also makes the range vulnerable to irresponsible recreational use. Those who visit the Angeles National Forest may find too few rangers and inadequate visitor facilities--a condition that can be improved by a monument designation.
Credit: Annette Kondo.
Enjoying the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. With its close proximity to Los Angeles, which is densely populated yet has few intra-city parks, the San Gabriels offer healthy outdoor recreation that can address Southern California’s obesity and diabetes crises. The area is already popular among cyclists, hikers and anglers, but improved upkeep of visitor facilities and conservation of the area itself would enhance the outdoor experience for all residents and visitors.
Credit: Steve Berardi, flickr.
The existing San Gabriel Wilderness’ north-facing slopes, which are within the boundaries of the new monument, include some of the area’s largest forests of big cone Douglas fir and live oaks.
Credit: Freddie Duncan via Wilderness.net.
The existing Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, to the north of San Gabriel Wilderness and also within the monument area, is a popular place to catch stunning views of the San Gabriels and walk scenic trails within easy driving distance of Los Angeles. A Los Angeles-area pastor recently recounted how youths were inspired by a trip to the nearby (but practically unknown) San Gabriels and wrote that national monument designation would help ensure these transformative outdoor experiences happen more often.
Credit: Tony Hall, flickr.
The existing Sheep Mountain Wilderness is 42,160 acres of rugged terrain and crystal clear rivers and streams within the monument area. Three of the tallest peaks in the San Gabriels can be found within its boundaries--Pine and Iron mountains and Dawson Peak, each exceeding 8,000 feet in elevation. Mount Baldy lies on the protected area’s easternmost border.
Credit: yosoydemichigan, flickr.
Water is a big part of what makes this area unique, and a big draw for anglers. Much of picturesque Cattle Canyon, a tributary of the San Gabriel River’s east fork, is contained in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, providing a popular but less-strenuous hike for outdoor adventurers. At certain points, Mount Baldy can be seen in the distance.
Credit: Raul, flickr.
Smaller than nearby wilderness areas in the monument, the existing Cucamonga Wilderness is nonetheless an irreplaceable chunk of Southern California nature, containing some of the rare alpine landscape in the San Gabriels. Along with 18 miles of walking trails, the wilderness provides habitat for deer, bears, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep.