Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions, San Gabriel Mountains. Photo by Steve Evans.

The Next Step for the San Gabriel Mountains

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comments on the draft management plan for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Established by President Obama in 2014, the 346,000- acre Monument is an astonishing landscape of high peaks, rugged canyons, forests and chaparral, and free flowing rivers and streams that provides outdoor recreation opportunities for more than 3.5 million visitors every year.

The Monument Plan is intended to ensure protection of the outstanding scientific and historic features of the San Gabriel Mountains while improving recreational opportunities for the 17 million people who live nearby in the greater Los Angeles urban area. But unfortunately, the draft plan falls short of providing decisive management direct that will improve the visitor experience while protecting the mountain range’s outstanding natural and cultural resources.

The draft Monument Plan fails to specifically identify the scientific and historical features for which the Monument was established to protect. Protected features identified in the President’s 2014 proclamation include existing Wilderness and roadless areas providing untrammeled backcountry recreation, river systems providing critical habitat and recreation (as well as drinking water for downstream communities), an extensive and popular trail system (including four nationally designated trails), “backyard” recreation opportunities for many adjacent highly urbanized and culturally diverse communities, striking geological features (including deep canyons, high peaks, and perennial streams), Mount Wilson and other sites used for past and present astrophysics scientific research, the San Dimas Experimental Forest (a hydrologic laboratory providing watershed research), the Aliso-Arrastre heritage resources area and other sensitive Native American cultural sites (some of which date back at least 8,000 years), former resorts and other historic camps associated with the “Great Hiking Era,” the historic mining town of Eldoradoville and other sites associated with the San Gabriel Mountains’ gold rush, and rich ecological vegetation diversity providing habitat for many rare, sensitive, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species.

The draft plan also lacks real on-the-ground actions needed to improve recreational opportunities, while protecting fish, wildlife, habitat, water quality, and historical/cultural resources. To truly protect and conserve this magnificent landscape, the Forest Service needs to articulate a clear strategy and action plan that protects natural and cultural resources, while providing high quality and sustainable recreational opportunities.

A waterfall on the West Fork San Gabriel River. photo by Steve Evans.

A waterfall on the West Fork San Gabriel River. photo by Steve Evans.

The Monument Plan should:

  • Describe in sufficient detail the specific scientific and historical features for which the Monument was established.
  • Commit to developing more detailed management plans for the San Gabriel River Canyons and other high-use gateway areas.
  • Improve recreational access while easing overcrowding by working with local transportation agencies to develop public transportation to trailheads, picnic areas, and other recreational sites.
  • Provide robust multi-lingual visitor education and outreach, coupled with more rangers on the ground in high visitor use areas.
  • Provide a clear strategy to protect and restore wildlife habitat and water quality, improve visitor facilities (including trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, and access roads), and secure sufficient funding from the federal government and through partnerships with other agencies and user groups.
  • Ensure full protection of the Monument’s designated Wilderness, roadless areas, and eligible Wild & Scenic Rivers.
  • Address climate change by facilitating more research, developing a program that identifies and removes non-native plant species, and ensuring that the Monument provides crucial biological corridors for the migration of species.

The Forest Service scheduled public meetings to seek input on the draft plan. The agency is also soliciting public comments in writing and by email through October 17, 2016. The public meetings are:

  • Wednesday, Sep. 14, 3-8PM, Pico House, 430 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
  • Thursday, Sep. 15, 4-8PM, The Centre, 20880 Centre Point Parkway, Santa Clarita, CA 91350.
  • Saturday, Sep. 17, 10AM-2PM, Angeles National Forest Headquarters, 701 N. Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91006.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 4, 3:30-7:30PM, Big Pines Lodge, Angeles Crest Highway (at Hwy 2), Wrightwood, CA 92397.

If you live in the region, please attend one of these public meetings and feel free to mention the points above.

You may also submit written comments by the Oct. 17, 2016 deadline by using our Action page. Alternatively, you can also visit the Forest Service’s comment web page at http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=46964 or send a comment email to jseastrand@fs.fed.us.

To review the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Draft Plan and Environmental Analysis, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=46964. If you have any questions or require more information about this alert, please contact Steve Evans at sevans@calwild.org.