After years of hard work, The Wilderness Society was thrilled to see the San Gabriel Mountains protected as a national monument in 2014. Spanning across most of the Angeles National Forest and a portion of the San Bernardino National Forest, the range is an essential habitat for wildlife, including mountain lion, Nelson’s bighorn sheep and rare and endangered species like the California condor.
Towering above Los Angeles County, the Angeles National Forest, half of which is protected in the monument, also supplies more than one-third of the county’s drinking water and 70 percent of its open space.
This landmark mountain range—visible from the desert to the sea—features majestic mountain peaks; alpine forests and miles of clear rivers and streams. The mountains offer fresh clean air and a respite of green space, making this area popular for picnics, fishing, camping and hunting. We applaud the national monument status, and intend to keep fighting to protect wild spots in and around this treasured area.
A unique aspect of these wildlands also makes them vulnerable: many areas are within an hour’s drive of 17 million Southern California residents making the Angeles forest one of the nation’s busiest. But aging facilities and limited staffing leave the range vulnerable to irresponsible recreation use. Visitors often find graffiti and trash, broken steps to the river, not enough trail signs, little multilingual/multicultural information and few rangers.
Sunset in the San Gabriel Mountains. Credit: Steve Berardi, flickr.
Improved access for all: To preserve the wild lands, recreation and health benefits of these wild lands, we are working as a lead partner with San Gabriel Mountains Forever, a partnership to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains and rivers and to improve access for all.
Work we are doing
The San Gabriel Mountains are known for their rugged, often snow-capped peaks, pine forests, chaparral hills and clear rivers. Protecting wilderness there helps preserve clean water, fresh air, wildlife habitat and scenic recreation.
Protecting special lands through wilderness designations
The Wilderness Society is a lead partner in San Gabriel Mountains Forever to protect thousands of acres of wilderness in three existing wilderness areas and add two new wilderness areas:
Sheep Mountain Wilderness is home to rare and endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs, Nelson’s bighorn sheep and California spotted owls. We are working to protect thousands of additional acres in this area, including the upper slopes of Los Angeles County’s tallest peak, Mount Baldy (or Mount San Antonio), and tributary canyons of the San Gabriel River.
Cucamonga Wilderness includes some off Southern California’s last remaining islands of subalpine wilderness, where huge sugar pines reach upward and Nelson’s bighorn sheep graze. We want this protected area to include more land spanning rugged slopes and canyons of the upper Lytle Creek watershed.
Nelson's or desert bighorn sheep. Credit: Bill Gracey, flickr.
San Gabriel Wilderness’ north-facing slopes include some of the area’s largest forests of big cone Douglas fir and live oaks. We are working to expand it and include part of the San Gabriel River’s West Fork watershed, an important water source and popular trout fishing spot.
Condor Peak features some of the most scenic wilderness quality lands in the range. Additionally, the namesake endangered bird has been sighted in the area. By protecting new wilderness here, we will preserve scenic areas such as Fox and Condor Peaks, Trail Canyon and Fox Canyon.
Castaic is a jewel in the forest northeast of Castaic Lake. By creating a new wilderness area here, we will preserve Fish Canyon, which is home to dramatic red rock canyons, lush riparian areas, vernal pools, a trout-filled creek, a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail and Red Mountain.
Protecting wild rivers
Another goal of our San Gabriel Mountains Forever partnership is to preserve the beauty and free-flowing condition of miles of rivers and creeks in the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests.
East Fork of the San Gabriel River. Credit: Durand Trench, flickr.
Wild and Scenic River protections would ensure that these streams remain wild:
East, West and North Forks of the San Gabriel River include rugged river areas – some with rare and endangered fish populations - as well as popular and easily reached recreation sites. The West Fork has a national bikeway, fishing platforms for disabled users and catch-and-release trout streams. We are working for protection of 25.6 miles of the largest watershed in the range, which is a source of drinking water for Los Angeles County.
San Antonio Creek flows through an impressive alpine canyon, studded with big cone Douglas fir, on the lower slopes of Mt Baldy. The canyon offers vast forest views and the spectacular 75-foot San Antonio Falls is easily accessible from a campground. We want to preserve four miles of this creek.
Middle Fork Lytle Creek supports a naturally reproducing rainbow trout population that is popular with fishermen. The steep canyons are home also home to Nelson’s bighorn sheep. We want to protect 5.5 miles of this creek, which provides access to the scenic Cucamonga Wilderness.
Little Rock Creek will have its scenery and habitat kept intact if we protect 20.2 miles starting in the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, and tumbling down to the high desert below. The upper portion is popular with hikers and home to endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs, while lower segments support endangered arroyo toads.
Yellow-legged frog. Credit: Rick Kuyper (USFWS).
San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy
The Wilderness Society created and leads the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy. Students – from high school age to retirees - learn what it takes to run a grassroots campaign: civic engagement, community advocacy and project management.
Over six months, participants gather every two weeks to learn and participate in the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign, and they each receive a grant for a San Gabriel Mountains and rivers project. Upon graduation, the students take the skills learned back to their communities, giving them the tools to benefit any grassroots community project.
A new national recreation area
The Wilderness Society is working to build support for a National Recreation Area that would connect urban downstream San Gabriel River areas, north to foothill parks and ultimately, the San Gabriel Mountains. The recreation area could add green park space and increase healthy outdoor recreation for Southern Californians.
Angeles National Forest. Credit: Michael Huey, flickr.
Benefits for millions
The San Gabriel Mountains encompass two of the nation’s most popular national forests. We lead the San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition that has built support for a National Recreation Area that would connect families from urban areas to the lower San Gabriel River, the Puente Hill-Chino Hills and up to the Angeles National Forest. The Angeles National Forest is already a popular Southern California outdoor destination for more than 3. 5million visitors a year. A National Recreation Area could:
- Provide green space for Los Angeles communities that have few parks.
- Help reduce high obesity and diabetes rates with more outdoor recreation opportunities.
- Add multilingual and multicultural programs and services that retell the region’s rich history.
- Improve urban parks, river bikeways and walkways for San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods.
The Wilderness Society is a leading member of San Gabriel Mountains Forever, a diverse partnership of residents, cities, local business owners, faith and community leaders, health and environmental justice organizations, and recreation and conservation groups that are working to protect the San Gabriel Mountains and Rivers.
The Wilderness Society is helping to lead that partnership with two goals:
- Permanent protection and increased access to the San Gabriel Mountains and Rivers.
- Building a diverse legacy of environmental stewards, especially through its San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy.
The San Gabriel Mountains offer a wild urban escape within about an hour’s drive of more than 17 million city dwellers. Those who explore the rivers, forests and magnificent peaks of these wild lands may see rare and endangered species, including bighorn sheep and California condor.
In heavily-populated Southern California, nearby wildlands and urban river areas are treasured as refuges of nature. The San Gabriels are uniquely threatened due to their proximity to heavily developed areas, and volunteers are especially important to help care for both wild lands and urban parks. Jose and Maria are two of dedicated key stewards.
Credit: Annette Kondo
Wilderness is a precious resource with many human, natural and economic benefits that we need to protect.
Hear artists, activists and adventurers share what the ownership and legacy of these American wildlands means to them.