Stewards of the Arroyo Seco

June 2024

The Arroyo Seco Enhances the SG Mountains National Monument

The Arroyo Seco, such a prominent feature of western Pasadena, is that great canyon and watershed that begins in the San Gabriel Mountains near Mount Wilson and extends all the way to downtown Los Angeles. Purple mountain majesty framing our region, an ever-present reminder of how close we are to nature. When the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument was established ten years ago, however, the Arroyo and other treasures of the western region of the San Gabriel Mountains were left out.

The monument was a critical step towards permanently protecting our mountains, but many local residents were disappointed that the spectacular Arroyo Seco canyon, a major tributary of the Los Angeles River, was not included, along with many of the best treasures of the Angeles National Forest. Sites like Millard Canyon, Chantry Flats, Tujunga Canyon, Switzer's Camp and others were neglected. Since then, community support has continued to grow for safeguarding the public lands in the western Angeles National Forest that were not included in the original monument designation, including our beloved Arroyo Seco.

On May 2 President Biden corrected that glaring omission by adding 109,000 acres to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. These lands are the western gateway to the Angeles National Forest and welcome millions of visitors each year. Ten miles of the mountain watershed of the Arroyo Seco above Pasadena lies within the expansion territory.

Celebration Speakers: Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, Supervisor Hilda Solis, Senator Alex Padilla, Congresswoman Judy Chu, USFS Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien, Gabrielino/Kizh Representative, Brian Gonzalez

The San Gabriel Mountains are the backyard for many urban and culturally diverse communities in and around Los Angeles. Over 18 million people live within a 90-mile radius of the expanded national monument. Protecting these public lands will help increase equitable access to nature, improve public health, conserve precious water supplies for local residents, and address the climate and biodiversity crisis.

As a member of the Community Collaborative that was established ten years ago to support the National Monument, I have watched the benefits that have come from the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument designation. It has been a difficult period, characterized by a long drought and several large fires, as well as a throng of enthusiastic new users of the forest who often have not been trained in the qualities of care and stewardship that nature deserves from those who use it. The US Forest Service has focused on recovery from the devastating Station Fire, the Bobcat Fire, and other calamities. We are glad that the forgotten territory of the Angeles National Forest will now benefit from being added to the Monument and know that the expansion will greatly enhance the original Monument's value as well.

Along with many local communities and organizations, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senator Alex Padilla and Representative Judy Chu have championed this campaign and urged President Biden to expand the monument. We urged the President to build on his conservation legacy and permanently protect these vital public lands so close to a dense urban center. There is more good news about the future of the Arroyo Seco. Supervisor Katheryn Barger has recently announced that the County of Los Angles will renew the Arroyo Seco Ecosystem Restoration Program that started two decades ago to improve conditions in the urban stretch of the Arroyo from Hahamongna down to the Los Angeles River. And Congressman Adam Schiff's proposed expansion of the Rim of the Valley Corridor would extend the Santa Monica National Recreation Area into the urban stretch of the Arroyo Seco for additional assistance and resources to protect Southern California's most celebrated canyon.

President Biden's declaration honors our treasured mountains, but we can't expect the federal government to solve all the challenges that face local nature in the era of climate change. The expansion is a call for reflection and for action. Southern California needs a renewed focus on restoring and enhancing the health of the forest and the natural resources it provides. That will take more than just a declaration. That will take new leadership and partnerships from local communities and organizations committed to stewardship of the precious natural treasures that we have been blessed with.


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