When the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (SGMNM) was established nine years ago, most supporters thought that the Arroyo Seco and other treasures of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest would be included in the monument territory. Imagine my surprise when I went to the victory party and discovered that the Arroyo Seco had been left out of the monument at the last minute, along with more than 100,000 acres on the west side and front range of the mountains. Many of the most treasured gems of the San Gabriel Mountains were excluded, including Tujunga Canyon and the upper watershed of the Los Angeles River.
After the monument was established, the National Forest Foundation asked me to serve on the Community Collaborative that they were establishing to support the monument. I asked, “why would I want to be on the collaborative for a monument that does not include the Arroyo Seco?” The NFF representative replied that they wanted me on the collaborative to assure me and others that the areas of the national forest outside of the monument territory would not be given short shrift because of the monument.
I have served on that collaborative representing the Arroyo Seco since its first meeting in 2015. It has provided an important forum for communities to improve the management and appreciation of the mountains and the Angeles National Forest. The Monument has developed a comprehensive management plan and some additional public support for the mountains. The Monument and the Community Collaborative are important vehicles to work together with the US Forest Service and the other communities and stakeholders who share a concern for the health of the forest.
Local residents and communities need to support the expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include the Arryo Seco and the other neglected areas. There are two ways to do this. Congresswoman Chu’s bill to expand the monument has passed the House several times but has never succeeded in being passed into law. It is unlikely that it will this year, so the request to President Biden to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to expand the monument, such as Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass advocates, is a much more likely approach.
In expanding the boundaries of the monument, we also need to ensure that there are adequate resources to improve the management of the monument. Without that, the designation will just be another false promise.
The San Gabriel Mountains are faced with unprecedented challenges and inadequate resources. Fires, such as the Bobcat Fire and the Station Fire, have ravaged the mountains and destroyed stream and wildlife conditions. There are numerous artificial barriers to fish and wildlife, most notably Brown Mountain Dam in the Arroyo Seco. More than 4.5 million people visit the mountains each year, putting an enormous strain on the forest.
Twenty years ago, the Arroyo Seco was one of five ranger districts in the Angeles National Forest. Today it is a neglected piece of the Gateway District, the name for the ANF territory that is not part of the monument. Pasadena and local communities have an important stake in the San Gabriel Mountains. The Arroyo Seco Watershed has suffered because of this neglect. Expanding the monument will be an important step to improve forest management.
The San Gabriel Mountains are a formidable reminder of how close we are to nature and of our stewardship responsibility. Let’s take this opportunity to renew our support for better management of the Arroyo Seco and the entire Angeles National Forest for today and for future generations.
Tim Brick is the Executive Director of Stewards of the Arroyo Seco.