FAQ: Obama to designate San Gabriel Mountains as 110th National Monument

 Night falls in the mountains of Angeles National Forest on October 2, 2013 in the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles, California.
Night falls in the mountains of Angeles National Forest on October 2, 2013 in the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains will become the nation's 110th National Monument, Capitol Hill sources told KPCC on Wednesday. President Obama is scheduled to make the announcement on Friday at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, in the shadows of the San Gabriels.

What is a National Monument?

According to the National Park Service, a National Monument is intended to preserve at least one nationally significant resource. It is usually smaller than a National Park.

What difference does the new designation make?

Supporters say a National Monument will bring more federal dollars to keep up with the trash and graffiti, improve signage, and address fire dangers, water quality issues, and habitat protection while still allowing people to enjoy this open space.

They say it will also increase support from foundations ready to pitch in for conservation and recreation. Currently the U.S. Forest Service has no way to prioritize these funds and direct them specifically to the San Gabriel Mountains. A monument would change this. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) says a new public/private partnership will be unveiled for the San Gabriel National Monument on Friday.

How will that change my experience of using the San Gabriels?

It won't - at least at first. You may see some new signage. Chu says nothing would change for cabin residents, off-road vehicles, or skiers. "In fact, the Forest Service has a mandate for multi-use. They're supposed to be responding to the diversity of needs of people who utilize the area."

That's for now. The next step would be to create a management plan for the area over the next three years.

What do the critics say?

They say that new designation isn't needed: The San Gabriel Mountains are already cared for by the U.S. Forest Service and are very accessible to the public.

They also ask where those new federal dollars will come from. Congress is already trying to cut the federal budget.

They are also concerned that that new management plan could lead to fees or restrictions on off-road vehicles and mountain bikes or make it more difficult to remodel existing cabins.

Amy Granat, managing director of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association says National Monuments have to have a consistent policy around the country. What might be normal for Southern California mountain areas might be "inconsistent" with National Monument policies elsewhere in the country. She says nationally, hunting is generally allowed, but not target shooting or off-road vehicles.  She suggests there are questions about leased cabins on National Forest land.

Who's for it?

Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) sponsored a bill that would have designated the San Gabriels a National Recreation Area. That legislation stalled in the House. Several lawmakers, including Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte), Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley), and Linda Sanchez (D-Cerritos) lobbied the administration to have the President to use executive power to declare the area a National Monument. Supporters of the monument include: Manual Lozano, the mayor of Baldwin Park, board members of the San Gabriel Valley Water District, and TreePeople.

What's the difference between a National Recreation Area and a National Monument?

A National Monument includes only federal lands, not private property. Its boundaries are limited to 346,000 acres in the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests.

Who's against the National Monument designation?

Congressman Paul Cook (R–Big Bear) says a presidential designation would bypass Congress’ legislative role in land use decisions and prevent local residents from having a voice in this important decision. He, along with fellow San Bernardino County Representatives Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Montclair) sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking for more public meetings in San Bernardino County. "These are our mountains. Let’s speak with strength and conviction when deciding our future,” Cook wrote.

Cook and the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors are "demanding" that San Bernardino County lands be excluded from any monument designation. San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Janice Rutherford says "there is a high level of skepticism about the purported benefits of such a designation and a great deal of concern about the potential negative consequences.”

Also on record against the designation are Ron Ellingson, the owner of the Mt. Baldy lodge and ski lifts, and the California Off-Road Vehicle Association.


(The map above shows an earlier proposal to create a San Gabriel National Recreation Area, an effort KPCC covered in June. For a larger map, click here.)

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