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1874 - First train out of L.A. to reach new town of San Fernando; Newhall 2 years later [story]
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Take a Hike | Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Oct 12, 2014

deh_mug2014President Obama signed a proclamation Friday to create a new national monument in the San Gabriel Mountains, consisting of 346,177 acres. This is a project that dozens of citizens have worked on for at least a decade.

U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis first imagined these mountains in national recreation area and commissioned a study with the National Park Service 18 years ago. When that study was completed, numerous public meetings were held and well attended. More than 95 percent of the attendees were in favor of protecting the forest in perpetuity.

When Solis left Congress, Rep. Judy Chu picked up the baton and carried the fight forward. Earlier this year, she introduced the San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area legislation. The bill sat in the House Natural Resources Committee, and it was evident it was not gaining traction.

In order to seek some of the protections for the mountains, Chu approached the president about a possible national monument designation. The president liked the idea, and with various changes and additions, the finalized version of the monument was signed into law.

deh_obama_101014Many presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have used their power through the Antiquities Act to create monuments across the country. The Antiquities Act was passed by Congress in 1906 and signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt. The act was intended to allow a sitting president to set aside natural areas as parks and conservation land.

If the areas to be protected have scientific or historical value, they are called national monuments. Our local San Gabriel Mountains have more than 600 Native American habitation sites-rock art-artifacts that will be protected, as well as 8,500 years of human history in the area. There are multiple endangered species that will also benefit from the designation. The Mt. Wilson Observatory in the forest is where Edwin Hubble discovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way and Albert Michelson provided the first modern measurement of the speed of light

The national monument will bring more trails, more services, improved trail heads, parking, law enforcement, more access, cleaner air and water, and less graffiti and vandalism. Trails will be safer, and signage will be installed. There are a lot of on-the-ground changes you will see in the near future in your forest.

The new designation will increase job opportunities in the forest, as well, which is also a welcome “plus” in this economy.

The writer (left) with National Forest Suprvisor Tom Contreras and Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste at Friday's signing ceremony in San Dimas.

The writer (left) with National Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras and Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste at Friday’s signing ceremony in San Dimas.

Leading philanthropists have announced they are making charitable donations to jump-start the restoration of numerous high-priority projects within the forest. More than $3.5 million has been pledged for the effort. This is a great beginning to a new, better, cleaner, happier forest for all.

Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, along with the Forest Service, are committed to investing more than $1 million in education staff and maintenance work on trails and picnic areas.

The San Gabriel Mountains provide 70 percent of the open space in Los Angeles and 30 percent of the water in Los Angeles. It is important that we protect these resources. With education and roving rangers, we can expect to improve the water quality within the forest. More rangers equal less trash. Less trash equals cleaner water. With more than 15 million people living within 1.5 hours of the forest, trash can quickly become overwhelming.

deh_signing101014Within the monument, there will be no “use” changes, meaning the hundreds of miles of hiking, mountain biking, OHV and equestrian trails will remain as they are. No trails will be closed. There will be no changes to water rights, no eminent domain, and no closures.

The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument will be managed by the U.S. Forest Service and will be the eighth national monument under Forest Service management.

Kudos to the many people who have devoted years of their lives to this designation; to Hilda Solis for bringing the idea forward; to Rep. Judy Chu, whose passion inspired us all; and to President Obama for making the dream a reality.


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. If you’d like to be part of the solution, join the Community Hiking Club’s Stewardship Committee. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

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  1. Sure. NO use changes. If by that you mean that all of the areas currently closed to vehicle access by”administrative” fiat will remain that way forever then I guess that is a truthful statement.

  2. One of the on the ground requests we have made is that currently closed areas be opened again to the public.

  3. How does this effect the high speed rail project? Will they still be digging under our homes? Or will this act now detour it? You know, the high spped rail that the people voted against, that is still being pushed forward. Please let me know if this in anyway will help to put an end to it.

    • Barbara, we have been fighting the High Speed Rail . We asked that they use the I-5 corridor instead of the Soledad Corridor to protect the wildlife linkage. It did no good. We don’t want it. The majority of citizens don’t want it. We will continue to oppose it.

  4. Really? Pardon my skepticism, but if the NFS continues to be the operator of the “monument”, and they have closed access to many locations for long periods of time due to staffing and budget problems, what will change? Congress already short-sheets the NFS budgets (see Adventure Pass). What will change their minds? Will a strong desire to help the President’s use of The Antiquities Act suddenly bring warm & fuzzies into the House for funding increases?

    As for the Bull-It train, I suggest everyone pay close attention. The rest of California could not care less about the SCV, including the Gov. The tunnel idea could easily steamroll Sand Canyon if the aboveground construction starts and stays outside the monument’s boundaries. That would be a fun EIR to read.

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