San Bernardino rep asks Trump to shrink San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, citing ski resort and mining
|August 8, 2017; updated August 30, 2017 - A San Bernardino County Congress is calling for the Trump administration to reduce the boundaries of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.|
|Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Newspapers|
|San Gabriel Valley Tribune|
|A San Bernardino County congressman is calling on the Trump administration to shrink the boundaries of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, causing anxiety among some of the monument’s ardent supporters.|
Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, wants to lop off a finger of the 346,177-acre monument located mostly in the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County. Cook wants to remove 4,873-acre portion jutting into the San Bernardino National Forest, north of the communities of San Antonio Heights, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga.
As part of President Trump’s review of 27 national monuments created in previous administrations, Cook wrote a letter indicating his constituents had opposed the new monument from the start. He said President Obama ignored their concerns, and that the process did not include outreach to communities and leaders from San Bernardino County.
“The inclusion of 4,873 acres of non-wilderness Forest Service land was widely opposed by local residents due to its encroachment on local communities and economic activity,” Cook wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on June 8.
While Cook cited the economic restraints imposed by the monument on “a ski resort” nearby, the only resort in the area is the Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts, which lies just outside the monument boundary.
Cook wrote in an email that the owner was concerned the presence of the monument might prevent “future expansion.”
On June 30, Cook was joined by 16 other Western Caucus congressional representatives in seeking a reduction in the San Gabriel Mountains monument as well as others in California. The process began in April when Trump asked Zinke to review certain monuments created by former presidents under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
Congressman Cook’s letter also calls for shrinking the Castle Mountains National Monument near the Nevada border, as well as the 1.6-million-acre Mojave Trails National Monument. Miners want access to lands in both monuments, to dig for gold in Castle Mountains, for iron and other minerals in Mojave Trails.
In a national monument, mining companies can continue operating if they already have existing claims. But the law prevents expanding those activities.
In July, Cook told the Southern California News Group that the Mojave Trails monument was doubled in size by Obama from a previous proposal.
“This was accomplished without any public comment. This letter simply recognizes the illegitimacy of this action and asks that President Trump follow the publicly debated boundaries while rolling back the former president’s overreach,” Cook wrote.
In regard to his concerns about the San Gabriel Mountains monument, Cook said the Obama administration cut back the boundary but not enough.
“Officials from the Department of Agriculture assured us the monument would not protrude into the county,” he wrote in an emailed response.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, who worked to establish the monument first by introducing legislation for a San Gabriel Mountains national recreation area, said Cook was misinformed. She said she met with many San Bernardino County officials, including Supervisor Janice Rutherford, before Obama signed the proclamation creating the monument on Oct. 10, 2014.
In 2014, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution opposing the monument designation.
Chu said the city of Rancho Cucamonga supported the monument and were disappointed when the Obama administration shrunk the proposed boundaries, excluding popular trails in the Cucamonga Peak area. The city had hoped the monument would bring new resources to help with rescues as well as maintenance.
“There is no basis for doing it,” she said. “Instead there is everything to gain from it.”
In the nearly three years of the San Gabriel Mountains monument, the U.S. Forest Service received $6.5 million in additional funding and $4.5 million from donors, including nearly $1 million from Coca-Cola, she said.
“The monument itself has been a tremendous success. I would hate to see all that was accomplished by the monument status go down the drain by this short-sited and non-factual letter,” Chu said.
Daniel Rossman, acting California director of The Wilderness Society and a member of San Gabriel Mountains Forever, a coalition of conservation groups, business interests and faith organizations, said the process leading up to the Obama designation was lengthy and included numerous meetings over several years.
The monument has received the support of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments and the monument’s 45-member collaborative. All wrote letters to Zinke saying the monument should remain as it is.
Many point to the process as evidence that groups are working together to use monument status to improve recreation, trails and picnic grounds both in the overused Angeles National Forest and San Bernardino’s small portion.
The Trump administration’s review process is perplexing to Los Angeles County supporters.
“We invited the secretary to visit the San Gabriel Mountains and hear from locals as to why the mountains should be protected,” Rossman said. So far, they’ve not received a response to their invitation sent in May.
“It is leaving the community with great anxiety,” Rossman said.
A report from Zinke on the San Gabriel monument is expected by Aug. 24.
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