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National Park Service Recommends Increased Protection of San Gabriel River and Mountains

Posted: April 10, 2013 3:25 p.m.
Updated: April 10, 2013 3:25 p.m.
 

LOS ANGELES – San Gabriel Mountains Forever - a diverse partnership of residents, businesses, faith and community leaders, health and environmental justice organizations, and recreation and conservation groups - applauds the National Park Service for recommending that Congress pass legislation to protect the nationally significant recreational and environmental values of the San Gabriel River and Mountains.

Today’s recommendation was the result of a study requested by Congress in 2003 when then-Congresswoman Hilda Solis spearheaded an effort to address the need for greater recreational opportunities and protected open space in the San Gabriel Valley.

Solis, who recently completed her post as U.S. Secretary of Labor, praised the Obama Administration for its pioneering efforts to protect public lands and connect more Americans to the outdoors. As a child, Solis said her family enjoyed the San Gabriel Mountains and River as an escape from the city. Today, the forest needs both protection and improvement of services, Solis said, so that all families can share that experience.

“President Obama and Secretary Salazar recognize how critical it is to bring healthy outdoor recreation to more Americans, including urban youth,” Solis said. “I encourage Congress to introduce National Recreation Area legislation this year that recognizes the full vision of our local communities.”

San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF) supports a broad National Recreation Area that includes the Angeles National Forest, urban areas of the San Gabriel River and the western portion of the Puente Hills.

“We are grateful for the National Park Service recommendation that Congress create a recreation area for the urban areas of the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers to serve many park-poor communities,” said Daniel Rossman of San Gabriel Mountains Forever. “We also applaud the recognition for stronger collaboration between the National Park Service and the US Forest Service in the vast Angeles National Forest.”

San Gabriel Mountains Forever also noted that 70 percent of Los Angeles County’s open space is in the San Gabriel Mountains, and its more than 3.5 million annual visitors could benefit from SGMF’s vision of a San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area that connects urban river areas to the entire forest. Among the outstanding values the National Park Service identified were habitat for 76 plant species and 77 wildlife species considered sensitive, rare, threatened or endangered.

First-time visitors to the Angeles National Forest like Jessica Chan-Ugalde, 16, a Temple City student, are often surprised by the forest’s natural beauty, but also dismayed by the lack of trail signs, trash cans and visitor information to help people better protect and enjoy the mountains.

“Once I experienced the beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains and learned it was also the source of one-third of Los Angeles’ drinking water I knew it had to be preserved,’’ Chan-Ugalde said. “A national recreation area that bridges the forest and urban river areas would certainly help educate the next generation of caretakers.”

Before developing today’s recommendation, the National Park Service spent nearly a decade researching alternatives, conducting public hearings, developing a 316-page report, and evaluating 12,000 public comments. Over 95% of public comments supported the alternative that recommended the creation of a National Recreation Area spanning the national forest as well as urban river areas and the Puente-Chino Hills.

A comprehensive San Gabriel Region National Recreation Area as envisioned by San Gabriel Mountains Forever will benefit a Southern California region of more than 17 million people. In many areas of the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County, communities lack green space and parks, and obesity and diabetes rates are soaring. Transit-to-trails programs could also link park-poor communities to the forest while reducing the impact of cars.

 

www.sangabrielmountains.org

 

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