Obama Announces New San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

“Today I am using my executive authority to designate the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument,” President Barack Obama told a crowd gathered in Frank G. Bonelli Park in San Dimas early this afternoon.

As the new monument pans out, however, the parts of the Angeles National Forest adjacent to the foothills communities of the City of Los Angeles, including Sunland-Tujunga, Lake View Terrace, and Sylmar, will not be included in the new national monument. The western region of the park will only extend north from the San Gabriel summit line. Highway 39 in Azusa will become the most direct access road to the national monument. From Tujunga, the national monument boundary begins about 10 miles from the city/forest border. The Angeles National Forest effectively becomes the new gateway to the national monument.

The sudden move to make nearly half of the Angeles National Forest a national monument was the result of a contorted political path in which redistricting, environmental groups, private pressures, and the ambitions of elected officials all played a role.1497618_1475236419432799_2625314719289786657_n

The proposal originated in US Representative Hilda Solis’s office, and Representative Judy Chu inherited part of the mantle. When Chu’s congressional district shifted from 32 to 27, Representative Grace Napolitano took the lead advocacy role for a while. Napolitano and the National Park Service recommended that the new monument extend down into Whittier Narrows. But when Congress blocked discussion of the proposals, leaving the Obama Administration to use an executive declaration if there was to be a new monument, the possibility of adding a large amount of land controlled by nonfederal agencies ended. Obama also singled out the foothills-area’s Representative Adam Schiff as committed to the cause, though much of Schiff’s western portion of the Angeles National Forest is not inside the new monument.

“This incredible 346,000 acres of rugged slopes and remote canyons are home to an extraordinary diversity of wildlife,” Obama told the crowd. “Maybe you can swat away some rare native insects,” the president joked.

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