San Gabriel Mountains National Monument: The big cave-in

The Bridge to Nowhere spanning the East Fork San Gabriel River. Photo courtesy of http://www.stevescamera.com/2012/11/the-infamous-bridge-to-nowhere-along.html
The Bridge to Nowhere spanning the East Fork San Gabriel River. Photo courtesy of http://www.stevescamera.com/2012/11/the-infamous-bridge-to-nowhere-along.html

I”m not sure that’ll be the new monument’s official title, but the word on the street is that when President Obama is in SoCal on Friday, before or after breaking bread with Gwyneth Paltrow, he’ll be declaring part of the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. Wait a minute — what happened to making them part of a national recreation area??

Here’s what happened: because the national recreation area designation would require congressional approval — which at the rate they’re going could take the better part of a century — Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-El Monte), who drafted the recreation area proposal, decided to take the easier route and shoot for national monument status.

Problem with the monument alternative is the mountains would remain under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service, not the National Park Service, as it would have been if it received the national recreation area designation. And any user of the Angeles National Forest knows what a bang-up job the USFS has done. Sure, the forest is strapped for dough, especially having to fork over truckloads of cash to fight fires. And a 700,000-acre forest with 3 million visitors a year isn’t easy to care for. But both the East and West Forks of the San Gabriel River are pretty disgraceful, to give just one example.

Local flyfishing group the Pasadena Casting Club has been pushing for Wild & Scenic River designation for the West Fork and its tributaries, and is against the national monument, unlike other conservation groups like Trout Unlimited. They point out that while Rep. Chu will still seek a national recreation area bill, national monument status in the meantime is an inferior alternative. Funding will be at a much lower level and would not result in new recreation services or lighten the pressure of the overused forest, since the USFS is chronically short of funds and what it does get goes to fighting fires.

Don’t get me wrong — there are many fabulous trails and vistas in the San Gabriels, especially at the western end. And hopefully the San Gabriel River will get Wild & Scenic protection at some point. It’s just unclear exactly how creating a national monument would make a lick of difference. Is the graffiti and trash in the East Fork area all of a sudden going to disappear? Truly a monumental challenge.

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2 thoughts on “San Gabriel Mountains National Monument: The big cave-in

  1. ngw October 13, 2014 / 2:13 pm

    This is just one example of how the Washington morass (emphasis on “ass”) is affecting all of us in so many ways. Yet people don’t vote, especially in non-presidential election years. Only 37 percent turned out in 2010, giving us the tea party wacko wing in the House.

  2. West-centric October 13, 2014 / 11:54 pm

    I agree, ngw! Let’s hope turnout isn’t abysmal next month. Duh….what mid-terms?

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