AZUSA, CA — At a listening session today hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), hundreds of attendees called on President Biden to add 109,000 acres of the western Angeles National Forest to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Speakers and attendees included Dr. Rudy Ortega Jr., Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, California State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-25), Azusa Mayor Robert Gonzales, Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo and other local elected officials, community members, and residents in the Los Angeles region. The listening session represents a critical step forward in the 20-year, locally-driven effort to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains.
Over 18 million people live within a 90-mile radius of these public lands and the expansion will help increase equitable access to nature and improve public health. It will also conserve a critical drinking water source for Los Angeles County, address the climate and biodiversity crises, and honor the cultural and historical significance of the landscape.
“For Angelenos, the San Gabriel Mountains have been a lifelong connection to nature,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “For many low-income families in the Los Angeles area, this is the only access they have to green space and the educational and health benefits that come with it. That is why we are urging President Biden to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to fulfill the complete vision of permanently protecting the San Gabriel Mountains and all of their natural wonders. I thank USDA Undersecretary Wilkes and the Forest Service for holding this listening session and I am hopeful that we will soon be welcoming the Administration back to Southern California to celebrate an official designation.”
“The San Gabriel Mountains are among the most pristine and beautiful public lands in the country, and they are right here next to one of the nation’s densest and most park-deprived population centers,” said Representative Judy Chu. “I am thankful to USDA for holding today’s listening session on our monument expansion proposal, and I’m so gratified that advocates for the designation mobilized today and made their voices heard. I hope that President Biden will recognize the importance of these lands by designating the western Angeles National Forest as part of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. From increased access to nature for underserved communities to protecting the source of one-third of LA County’s drinking water, our region’s economy, health, and environment will extensively improve from such a designation by the President.”
Earlier this year, elected officials, community leaders, and local residents joined Senator Padilla and Representative Chu in calling on President Biden to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument using the Antiquities Act. Ninety-three elected officials, the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, and the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians support the proposed expansion. Over 34,000 community members have signed a petition urging President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to expand the monument. Los Angeles County and the Cities of Alhambra, Baldwin Park, Duarte, Glendale, Monterey Park, Santa Clarita, and South Pasadena have also passed resolutions endorsing this effort.
“We are excited about the proposed expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,” said Dr. Rudy Ortega Jr., Tribal President, Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. “Expanding the monument would protect lands of cultural importance to my people who are part of this nation’s history and who have cared for these lands since time immemorial. It would also further protect areas that are critical for our environment and the wildlife and plants that depend on this landscape.”
“We support adding 109,000 acres of public lands to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,” said Anthony Morales, Tribal Chairman, Gabrieleno/Tongva Band of Mission Indians. “The San Gabriel Mountains are historically significant to our tribe, our people, and our culture. Protecting more of this important region will help protect our traditional plants and cultural resources. We join Senator Padilla and Representative Chu in asking President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to expand the monument.”
In 2014 President Obama designated approximately 346,177 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument. Since then, community support has continued to grow for safeguarding public lands in the forest that were not included in the original monument designation. The existing monument is managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) which is an agency within USDA.
Along with increasing equitable access to nature, the monument expansion will help protect important habitat and wildlife corridors and contribute to state and federal goals to conserve 30% of public lands and waters by 2030. These efforts are critical to addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. The San Gabriel Mountains are an interconnected landscape and a refuge for native wildlife. The proposed expansion would safeguard wildlife corridors and habitat for species such as black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and mule deer.
Since the monument designation over a dozen local partner organizations have worked collaboratively on upgrades to trails, campsites and picnic areas, installation of new visitor information, and habitat restoration projects. In addition to advocating for the expansion of the monument, local advocates are also highlighting the urgent need for increased resources for the national monument and the national forest.
“Today’s meeting demonstrated our local community’s support to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,” said Belén Bernal, Executive Director, Nature for All. “The national monument is a special place and we all agree that this region does not receive adequate funding to manage sustainable visitation. The proposed monument expansion will include a region of the Angeles National Forest that in 2021 welcomed 4.6 million visitors – that’s more than the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park. Local agencies deserve the resources to care for and manage these beloved lands. Our goal is to continue to work with the national forest, coalition partners, active volunteer groups, and our champions in Congress to advocate for these resources.”
Advocates are calling on President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The Antiquities Act is a 1906 law that grants U.S. Presidents the ability to designate federal public lands, waters, and cultural and historical sites as national monuments with a Presidential Proclamation. Vice President Kamala Harris also previously championed legislation to protect the San Gabriel Mountains when she served as California’s Senator.