San Gabriel Mountains National Monument designation has added new managers, funding to Angeles Forest
|Contra Costa Times|
|Exactly two months after President Barack Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument, federal, city and non-government leaders Wednesday said the attention has resulted in the hiring of 10 cleanup crews, new forest managers and has launched a fund-raising campaign expected to top $3 million.|
Officials speaking at a San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments meeting at the San Gabriel Hilton said the presidential visit and signing has awakened the U.S. Department of Agriculture, particularly the arm that manages the Angeles National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service, of the need for more resources in an area described as L.A.’s backyard.
“There is not a specific line item (in the federal budget) that says ‘San Gabriel Mountains National Monument’ funding, but the Washington office and the regional offices have said: ‘Boy, they need help out there,’” said Daniel Lovato, deputy forest supervisor for the Angeles National Forest.
The Forest Service got the OK to shift resources from other forests into the heavily used Angeles, resulting in 10 cleanup crews that have been working on trails, picking up trash and eradicating graffiti, officials explained.
Lovato announced he is hiring a new volunteer coordinator plus three additional staffers to organize volunteers and keep forest visitor centers open year-round. Now, these have spotty hours and are run completely by volunteers, he said.
“We are doing these things now,” he told about 100 people gathered for the informational meeting. “The monument has put the spotlight on the Angeles National Forest.”
In addition, the Forest Service plans on bringing in crews from AmeriCorps, an army of volunteers that perform community service throughout the nation started by President Bill Clinton, Lovato said.
The attention has prompted the National Forests Foundation to raise $3 million for cleaning up areas of the Angeles now in the monument, such as San Gabriel Canyon, where visitors leave trash and often where fires are set. So far, the group has raised $2.1 million and it expects donors in Southern California to exceed the $3 million goal, said Edward Belden, Southern California project associate for the group.
Planning has begun for a new monument blueprint that will determine improvements to the monument. The Forest Service has three years to come up with a plan, as ordered by the president.
Another working group, of about 15 members, has been meeting to determine where it is best to spend new dollars, officials said.
The Community Collaborative includes: Belinda Faustinos, a consultant with San Gabriel Mountains Forever; Claire Robinson, president of Amigos de los Rios; Mark Stanley, executive director of the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy; Glendora Mayor Judy Nelson; Linda Wucherpfennig of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA); Steve Messer, of the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (COBRA); David Rodriguez of Pacoima Beautiful and Daniel Rossman of the Wilderness Society.
The group has met once and will meet again on Jan. 13, said Faustinos.
While many groups and cities are involved in the monument process, some have been left out when the president declared 346,177 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument on Oct. 10 during a signing ceremony at Bonelli Park in San Dimas.
Lovato was asked why at the last minute, a large swath of the front-facing forest areas, including the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, Mt. Lowe, historic Mt. Wilson and the inner areas near Sunland that were devastated by the 2009 Station Fire, were excluded from the monument boundary.
He said the Antiquities Act, which gives the president the authority to name national monuments, requires the smallest portion of an area for protection and new resources. “We know there were some pieces left out. This was the smallest piece of land to protect.”
“I am not satisfied with their explanation,” said Timothy Brick of Pasadena, managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation.
Brick said the U.S. Forest Service left out one-third of the Angeles Forest, setting up an adversarial relationship between those areas left out and those within the boundaries.
“I guess were are the ghetto part,” he said during an interview late Wednesday.
The designation protects the mountains, trails and rivers but also adds new funding for trail maintenance, signage and educational programs. Officials said it will not change rules for off-road vehicles, hunting or leases on federal land.
Before the president acted, Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, held hearings and crafted a bill that would make a large portion of the mountains, as well as the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers, a national recreation area.
That bill is stalled in Congress but remains active.
The San Gabriel Valley COG is a joint powers authority made up of representatives from 31 cities, three Los Angeles County Supervisorial Districts and the three municipal water districts located in the San Gabriel Valley. The COG’s Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led by San Dimas City Councilman Denis Bertone, held the informational meeting.
Arroyo Seco Foundation, 570 W. Avenue 26 #450, Los Angeles, CA 90065-1011
PO Box 91622, Pasadena, CA 91109-1622 (323) 405-7326 firstname.lastname@example.org