PASADENA, CA — Today, elected officials, community leaders, and local residents in the Los Angeles region joined Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Representative Judy Chu (CA-28) in calling on President Biden to add 109,000 acres of public lands to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Sen. Padilla and Rep. Chu both sent a letter urging the President to use the Antiquities Act to achieve this goal and in May introduced legislation in support of this effort.
“For Angelenos, the San Gabriel Mountains have been a lifelong connection to nature,” said Senator 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. And it is critical that we protect these public lands to promote environmental justice in our communities. 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.”
“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 Rep. Judy Chu. “I’m so grateful to the diverse, vibrant group of leaders of this more than 20-year movement to protect the San Gabriel Mountains, and I hope that President Biden will recognize the importance of these lands by designating the western Angeles National Forest as part of the 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.”
Expanding the monument is the next step in a 20-year, locally-driven effort to 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.
“The San Gabriel Mountains are a critical open space for many communities in Los Angeles County that lack green space and suffer from health issues,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Los Angeles County, District 1. “I appreciate Senator Padilla and Representative Chu for their efforts to continue what I had initiated during my Congressional tenure to ensure that more Angelenos, especially historically underserved communities, can enjoy this beloved region now and for generations to come. I support adding these lands to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument for the benefit of all.”
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 important public lands that were not included in the original monument designation. The proposed expansion area is considered the “gateway” to the Angeles National Forest and as a result is one of the most visited parts of the forest. Moreover, according to the U.S. Forest Service, the national forest received 4.6 million visitors in 2021—more than the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park received in the same year.
These lands are the backyard for many urban and culturally diverse communities within Los Angeles County that have limited access to green spaces in their neighborhoods. This area is also adjacent to the San Fernando Valley, which has a majority Latino population and some of the most limited park access in the county.
“Los Angeles County is one of the most densely populated areas in the nation and millions of our region’s residents have limited access to the outdoors,” said Belén Bernal, Executive Director, Nature for All. “We know that lack of access to nature has negative health implications and is linked to higher rates of obesity and diabetes. That’s why it is so important that we ensure the permanent protection of the San Gabriel Mountains. This is one of the few places Angelenos can go to enjoy the outdoors close to home.”
Expanding the national monument will also conserve a critical source of drinking water for Los Angeles County. The Angeles National Forest provides one-third of the county’s drinking water. Permanently protecting more of this life-giving resource will benefit residents throughout the region.
“The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is one of California’s treasures, but does not currently include the upper Los Angeles River watershed in the Angeles National Forest, which is an important source of our region’s drinking water and open space,” said Monterey Park Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Wong, who is also the Nature for All Board Chair. “I’m grateful to Senator Padilla and Representative Chu for championing the effort to add this area to the existing monument, and hope to see President Biden take action.”
This proposal will help address the climate and biodiversity crises by protecting important habitat and wildlife corridors and contributing to state and federal goals to conserve 30% of public lands and waters by 2030. The San Gabriel Mountains are an interconnected landscape and a refuge for native wildlife. The proposed expansion area would safeguard wildlife corridors and habitat for species such as black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and mule deer.
“We applaud Senator Padilla and Representative Chu for calling to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument so that wilderness habitat and corridors will be conserved for both wildlife and human stewards in perpetuity,” said Charles Thomas, Executive Director, Outward Bound Adventures (OBA). “We hope the Biden Administration helps make this vision a reality.”
Sen. Padilla and Rep. Chu 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.
“Adding additional acreage to the national monument will help keep up with the growing need for outdoor space and recreation in our area,” said Kyle Tsukahira, Co-Director, Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement. “Protecting this place is an important part of improving management and visitor experience so that more Angelenos can enjoy the San Gabriel Mountains.”
In addition to the proposed monument expansion, the legislation from Rep. Chu, the San Gabriel Mountains Protection Act designates over 31,000 acres as protected Wilderness and over 45 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers throughout the San Gabriel range. Sen. Padilla’s bill, the PUBLIC Lands Act, includes the same protections for the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as proposed protections for public lands and rivers in the Central Coast and Northwest California. Vice President Kamala Harris previously championed legislation to protect these special areas when she served as California’s Senator.
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About the Nature for All Coalition and San Gabriel Mountains Forever
The Nature for All coalition, made up of local and national nonprofits, works to protect the public lands and green, open spaces around Los Angeles, and create opportunities for Angelenos to connect and care for nature.
Beginning in 2000, Nature for All – alongside many national and state environmental groups – began working to build an extraordinary collaboration between social justice, immigrant, religious, veteran, business, recreationist, environmental, and civic organizations, as well as water entities and elected officials. Together, these organizations are helping to secure the protections and recreational access improvements necessary to meet the needs of over 18 million people in the Los Angeles region.
San Gabriel Mountains Forever is an initiative of Nature for All, formed in 2008. The effort focuses on protecting the public lands and rivers of the San Gabriel Mountains forever to ensure equitable access to the outdoors for the region’s residents. Today, we want to ensure that the additional 109,000 acres are included in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in order to permanently protect these sacred spaces in nature for the local community, visitors, and for generations to come.