Biden to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, add forest rangers, funding

President Joe Biden will add nearly 106,000 acres to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on Thursday, May 2, expanding the monument designated 10 years ago by President Barack Obama by nearly one-third, according to the White House.

Also, Biden will approve a 13,696-acre expansion of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in northern California’s inner coast range, north of Sacramento. The two designations will be signed as proclamations by Biden later today at the White House through use powers granted to the executive branch. Together, they will add protections from mining and new highways to nearly 120,000 acres of wild lands in the state.

The San Gabriel Mountains monument expansion will add 105,919 acres of Angeles National Forest land to the existing 346,179-acre SGM monument, protecting closer-in areas in the western Angeles, including historic Chantry Flat, the Arroyo Seco and federal forest lands near Sunland, Tujunga and Santa Clarita.

Along with the expansion of the SGM monument, Biden promised additional resources for the area known as “L.A’s backyard playground,” located within 90 minutes of 18 million Southern Californians.

The White House announced funding for an unknown number of additional field rangers, interpretive rangers and positions to help with visitors. Also, $2.3 million in Great American Outdoors Act funding will be invested in the monument to rehabilitate barracks and provide housing for recreation and other Angeles National Forest staff, the White House said.

The Angeles National Forest received nearly 4.6 million visitors in 2021, more than Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks. Yet many areas remain closed due to fires, subsequent flooding and not enough funding to complete repairs.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join President Biden in the signing of the proclamations.

“The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is a crown jewel for Los Angeles. It is a backyard to millions of people, and is also home to cultural resources, rare animals and plants, unique geology, and dynamic forests, rivers and high peaks,” said Secretary Vilsack. “President Biden’s actions today ensure this remarkable place is protected for current and future generations.”

Others were jubilant over the presidential designation, something that was expected to happen on Earth Day in April but was pushed back. This included Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, who was present when Obama signed the original designation in 2014 and has championed the expansion for the last 10 years.

“In 2014, President Obama answered our calls by designating the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument for the first time. Since then, we have introduced legislation and fought to complete the vision of an expanded Monument that includes some of the most visited and beautiful lands in the western Angeles Forest. President Biden and the Biden-Harris Administration heard us,” wrote Chu in a prepared statement.

The monument before the expansion includes 342,177 acres of the Angeles National Forest and 4,002 acres of the neighboring San Bernardino National Forest. The addition also takes in lands owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Biden added to what Obama started by using the Antiquities Act of 1906, first used by President Theodore Roosevelt to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Eighteen presidents of both parties have used this power to designate other national monuments, including the Statue of Liberty, Colorado’s Canyon of the Ancients, and New Mexico’s Gila Cliff Dwellings

The San Gabriel Mountains monument is renowned for scenic mountain peaks, dark canyons, a plethora of flora and fauna species, hiking trails, campsites, streams and reservoirs. The addition takes in more popular portions of the western Angeles National Forest left outside the boundaries by Obama.

A map of the proposed addition to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. (graphic by Jeff Goertzen/SCNG)

The expansion includes areas north of Sylmar and east of the Newhall Pass, near Placerita Canyon in the Santa Clarita area. It would include the Upper Arroyo Seco, a historic tributary of the Los Angeles River with headwaters in the Angeles that meanders through La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena and South Pasadena. Also, the addition includes the Big Tujunga Reservoir and Big Tujunga Canyon, Switzer’s Camp, Millard Canyon and Eaton Canyon waterfall.

Another key addition is a closer-in area known as Chantry Flat, a popular hiking, picnicking and camping spot north of Arcadia and Sierra Madre that has attracted thousands of visitors on weekends but has been closed for several years due to damage from fires, rainstorms and a lack of resources from the U.S. Forest Service to make repairs.

The road leading to Chantry Flat is closed. This area would be added to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. (photo SCNG)

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Also included in the expansion is the site of Thaddeus Lowe’s funicular, the Mount Lowe Railway, which from 1893 to 1938 took people on a roller-coaster of a ride high into the mountains above Pasadena. The monument protects giant wheels used to hoist the railway onto the tracks, left on the side of the trail near Echo Mountain for decades.

Other historic trails that were created as part of the Great Hiking Era include the Gabrielino Trail, which was once a trade route used by Native American tribes and was recently restored. The new areas also contain ancient Native American relics.

 

A view of part of the proposed expansion area of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, with downtown Los Angeles visible in the background, on April 16, 2024 near La Cañada Flintridge, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Switzer Falls, off the historical Gabrielino Trail in the western part of the Angeles National Forest, as seen in June 2022, is scheduled to be added to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. (photo by Steve Scauzillo)

In an aerial view, a vehicle drives past a proposed expansion area (L) of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in the Angeles National Forest on April 16, 2024 near La Cañada Flintridge, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In an aerial view, water flows from Big Tujunga Dam, in a proposed expansion area of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in the Angeles National Forest, on April 16, 2024 near La Cañada Flintridge, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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“Our local community is overjoyed to see this next step in a 20-year effort to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains,” said Belén Bernal, executive director of Nature for All, a group lobbying for more resources and expansion of the monument. “The area included in the expanded San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is the closest section of the National Forest to the San Fernando Valley,” she added.

Guillermo Rodriguez, vice president of the Pacific Region and California director for Trust for Public Land, said the expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains monument will stimulate not just public, but also private funds, too.

“Having that special designation allows for greater resources to be invested in these areas,” Rodriguez said. “We have seen national monuments, like national parks, act as economic drivers. That increased attention and accessibility adds revenue to the local economy.”

About $1 million will be invested in the SGM monument from the State Water Resources Control Board, U.S. EPA, and the California Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, according to the White House.

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Related links

Support grows to ask Biden to expand San Gabriel Mountains National Monument
Pandemic, snowy mountains draw avalanche of visitors to Angeles National Forest
President Obama declares 346,000 acres of San Gabriel Mountains a national monument
Angeles National Forest plagued by closures from storms, fires, funding gaps
Tribal leaders call for expanding San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

 

 

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