At the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in Eaton Canyon Monday morning, Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo joined Senator Alex Padilla, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman Tony Cardenas, and L.A. County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, along with Native American leaders, to call on President Joe Biden to add 109,000 acres of public lands to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
As the emcee of the event, Mayor Gordo recalled fondly how, as a young boy, his family would barbecue in the mountains on weekends, and he and his friends would ride their BMX bikes along the many mountain trails.
Padilla anbd Chu are urging President Biden to issue a proclamation expanding the monument’s boundaries under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
If approved, the new acreage would join approximately 346,177 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains that President Obama designated as a national monument in 2014. The proposed expansion area is considered the “gateway“ to the Angeles National Forest and as a result, is one of the most visited parts of the forest.
It would comprise an almost 33% increase in the monument’s size, stretching it generally to the southwest and closer to communities such as Sierra Madre and Altadena.
In a letter to Biden requesting the expansion, Padilla and Chu noted that more than 15 million people live within a 90-minute drive of the San Gabriel Mountains, and expanding the monument is critical to protecting the open space.
“For Angelenos, the San Gabriel Mountains have been a lifelong connection to nature,” said Senator Padilla. “For many low-income families in the Los Angeles area, this is the only access they have to green space and the educational and health benefits that come with it. And it is critical that we protect these public lands to promote environmental justice in our communities.”
Congresswoman Chu, a long time advocate for the San Gabriel Mountains, said, “The San Gabriel Mountains are among the most pristine and beautiful public lands in the country, and they are right here next to one of the nation’s densest and most park-deprived population centers,”
Recalling President Obama’s 2014 visit, she reminded the audience that he said at the time, “This is just the beginning.”
Chu continued, “I hope that President Biden will recognize the importance of these lands by designating the western Angeles National Forest as part of the National Monument.
“From increased access to nature for underserved communities,” she said, “ to protecting the source of one-third of LA County’s drinking water, our region’s economy, health, and environment will extensively improve from such a designation by the President.”
LA County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger also added her voice to the call, saying, ““I’m hopeful President Biden will hear our coalition’s collective call to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument’s boundaries,” said Barger, who represents Pasadena, Altadena, and much of the Angeles National Forest.
“Every Los Angeles County resident in every neighborhood deserves safe and accessible nature, parks, and open space. Connecting with nature benefits our mental health and overall well-being.
“As local leaders,” she said, “we must do everything possible to ensure our communities and visitors alike have equitable access to explore nature. It’s a stabilizing space that makes a big difference in many people’s lives.”
The expansion would extend the western boundary of the San Gabriel National Monument out to Sylmar, and shadow a range of foothill communities from Sierra Madre, west to Tujunga and Sunland.
Environmental advocates quickly endorsed the proposed monument expansion.
“As a habitat for countless plants and wildlife, expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is critical to preserving biodiversity in the face of a changing climate. This is an opportunity to further preserve one-third of Los Angeles County’s clean drinking water and create additional recreational opportunities for underserved communities,” Mike Young, political and organizing director of California Environmental Voters, said in a statement. “We applaud the leadership of Senator Padilla and Representative Chu and call on the Biden Administration to protect our biodiversity, water, and green spaces.”
Leah Donahey, senior federal advocacy campaigns director for the League of Conservation Voters, added, “The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument expansion will increase access to nature in one of the most dense population centers in the country while preserving plants and habitats for wildlife and conserving a critical source of water in the West. LCV looks forward to working with local partners and the Biden-Harris administration to protect this special place now and for future generations.”