Expanding Wilderness on the Fringe of the Concrete Jungle

Representative Judy Chu and Senator Kamala Harris have each introduced companion legislation in the House and Senate aimed at further protections and expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, located within the Angeles National Forest and just a stone’s throw and 30-90 minute drive, pending our world-renowned traffic, from downtown Los Angeles. While the House bill has sat idle in committee since 2017, the Senate bill was just recently referred to committee at the end of 2018, so there is hope the bill could gain traction.

Deemed the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, the proposed legislation would:

  • Expand the boundaries of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include the western areas of the Angeles National Forest - portions of the Forest originally slated for inclusion in the Monument but later cut from the proclamation, including areas of the Arroyo Seco, a watershed of the Los Angeles River once populated with Southern California Steelhead, just north of the Rose Bowl.
  • Establish a new National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service and aimed at allowing resources to flow into the region and increase recreational opportunities for the surrounding communities traditionally lacking exposure to outdoor recreation.
  • Designate portions of the San Gabriel Mountains area as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including portions of the East and West Forks of the San Gabriel River still vital to the preservation of Southern California Steelhead genetics.
  • Expand terrestrial habitat falling under the Monument and wilderness protections that remain essential to the continued health of bighorn sheep, black bear, bobcat, coyote, deer, California and Mountain Quail, and our other small game species.

Designated in 2014 by President Obama, the Monument currently holds 346,177 acres of federal land, with the vast majority open to public for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities. The monument contains habitat critical to threatened and endangered species such as the California condor, Arroyo chub and Nelson’s bighorn sheep. In addition, the Mediterranean climate provides ideal conditions for 300 endemic plant species unique to the San Gabriel Range. With over 5 million visitors each year seeking out the unique flora, fauna and landscapes, the Monument is relied upon as a refuge from the persistent traffic and horns of the city, and is a crowning jewel to some of the vast public lands just outside the front door of all Southern Californians.

While all members should educate themselves on proposed legislation, the bills proposed by Harris and Chu would benefit the Monument and recreational opportunities while taking steps to protect waterways vital to our native rainbow trout and Southern California steelhead gene stocks. We’ll be sure to keep members apprised of future legislative movement, but, in the meantime, please reach out to your representatives and encourage them to use their resources and build momentum.

For full text of the Senate bill and to follow its progression, please visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/3704

For full text of the House bill and to follow its progression, please visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2323

About Justin Bubenik

California Chapter Chair

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