The real reason Tujunga and Arroyo Seco missed monument status: Larry Wilson
|December 12, 2014 - Larry Wilson ponders the mystery why the Arroyo Seco and some of the Angeles National Forest were left out of the new San Gabriel Mountains Monument. - -|
|Larry Wilson, San Gabriel Valley Tribune|
|Los Angeles Daily News|
"Storm Boss" Michele Chimienti, civil engineer for the water resources division of the LA County Department of Public Works, shows Wednesday, December 18, 2013 Big Tujunga Dam. The dam was built in 1931 and was seismically retrofitted in 2011. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News)
I took a Sunday drive on Tuesday and finally figured out why bureaucrats slashed a third of the forest out of the national monument.
No, it’s not that I got any United States Forest Service brass to confirm precisely why at the last minute mapmakers redrew the entire San Fernando Valley-facing front range out of the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, along with the historic resources of the Pasadena area: all of the Arroyo Seco, Mt. Lowe and its railway, the front side of Mt. Wilson, the Great Hiking Era trails above the hiking-est town in Southern California, Sierra Madre.
When you ask that question of the ‘crats, they answer with the same programmed hogwash they’ve been spouting for the two months since the day President Obama came here to sign the bill creating the monument and the Forest Service released a map radically different than the one they had been touting and using to gather community support, including from our editorial board.
Just so I could hear the party line again, on Wednesday I went to a community meeting at which Daniel Lovato, deputy forest supervisor for the Angeles National Forest, was the designated repeater of the cliches. “First of all, there are no winners and losers,” he said. Heard that one before. “There are a lot of criteria listed in the Antiquities Act,” under which the president declared the monument. True, that. “Our preference would have been that the whole National Forest be in it.” Why not make it happen, then? “Because the Antiquities Act says that a monument has to be the smallest piece of land that also protects the geologic and historic resources.” Right. But Teddy Roosevelt set out no arithmetical formula for what “smallest” is. So no one beyond those who don’t like Obama taking executive action anyway would have said a thing more than they are saying now if the original boundaries were kept.
Tim Brick of the Arroyo Seco Foundation told reporter Steve Scauzillo his suspicion: “I guess we are the ghetto part.”
Here’s my educated guess: Tuesday I took off up the Angeles Crest Highway above La Canada Flintridge looking for clues. I’d forgotten what a fun drive that is; the Cooper took the turns like a quarter-horse on that beautiful Southern California December day. I sped past the ranger station that is the namesake for the deadly Station Fire of five years ago, heading for the Angeles Forest Highway turnoff toward the Valley. Lots of blackened pines, sure; the chaparral has made a remarkable comeback. I was going to look for what the congressionally chartered nonprofit National Forest Foundation said was a replanting project in Big Tujunga Canyon, part of it in the monument, part of it out of it. Like all good folks involved here, its leaders say they care about the whole forest, monument or not.
Around another curve was the real reason for the redraw.
I knew there was an Edison power line project under construction to bring renewable energy from the desert to the city. I did not know how huge that project was. When I saw a giant black tower, with workers perched high in it, I pulled into a turnoff. I looked up at them hammering away hundreds of feet above me. I looked down into a canyon staging area where dozens of construction trucks were parked amid a mess of other equipment. Two helicopters were in the air simultaneously hauling big pieces of steel. It was loud. It did not feel like a national monument.
My theory: USFS archeologists evaluating our mountains took one look at the construction and quickly drew out the offending area. Then, weirdly, their hands just kept taking the Magic Marker east on the map, and they messed up, big time, and don’t know how to say so.
Larry Wilson is a member of the Los Angeles News Group editorial board. firstname.lastname@example.org
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