Protecting public lands and rivers will help combat climate change

Blog | By Thomas Wong

Thomas Wong is the Monterey Park Mayor Pro Tem and the board chair of Nature for All. He lives in Monterey Park.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are from spending time at our local parks in Los Angeles – on the playground with my brothers, learning to swim at the pool and picnicking on the grass.

During the pandemic, many of us developed an even deeper appreciation for green space in our neighborhoods. Meeting at a park with family or friends became the safest way to connect with each other.

Protecting nature benefits all of us. Being able to access parks, trails and other open space is not only good for our mental and physical health – it’s critical to addressing the climate crisis.

Scientists say we need to conserve 30% of lands and waters by 2030 because safeguarding natural areas is one of the most effective strategies to combat climate change. Conserving natural areas also helps ensure future generations will have access to the outdoors.

The Biden administration and Gov. Gavin Newsom have committed the nation and our state to this ambitious “30×30” goal. Expanding the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include 109,000 acres of public lands in the Angeles National Forest will help contribute to this goal.

This effort is being championed by Senator Alex Padilla, Representative Judy Chu, and a coalition of local advocates and community organizations. They are all calling on President Biden to use the Antiquities Act – a 1906 law – to expand the monument and permanently protect these lands.

Expanding the national monument is critical to achieving 30×30. The Angeles National Forest provides one-third of our county’s drinking water. The expansion would include the western Angeles National Forest, permanently safeguarding clean drinking water for millions of Angelenos.

This effort would also increase access to nature for communities who don’t have easy access to open space. This is another driver behind 30×30. Spending time in nature has proven health benefits that have become even more important during the pandemic.

The San Gabriel Mountains provide Angelenos with 70% of our open space and are a particularly important place for communities who may not have a park close to home. 30×30 is supported by Californians across the political spectrum. A recent poll found that 75% of California voters surveyed support 30×30 and 62% said it should be an urgent priority for the state. Moreover, 62% of voters surveyed also said that Californians across the state deserve access to open spaces.

With recent record-setting wildfires and extreme heat on top of the ongoing pandemic, it’s safe to say that we are living through unprecedented times. And yet, despite these incredible challenges, I remain optimistic because of nature-based solutions like 30×30 that will help address the climate crisis and build stronger and healthier communities. Expanding the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument would be a significant step forward in achieving these goals.



The San Gabriel Mountains: Recreate Responsibly, Advocate for Protection and Resources

For over 20 years, Nature for All and coalition members have worked to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains, advocate for more resources for the area, connect Angelenos to this special place, and educate local residents about how to recreate responsibly. This work – done in partnership with many local organizations and residents – led to the designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in 2014, and has brought new opportunities to the region.

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