Groups Say SoCal Natural Treasure Deserves Protection

LOS ANGELES - Some California groups are hoping to get the attention of Congress following President Obama's recent designation of five new national monuments. A diverse coalition of organizations is seeking permanent protection for the San Gabriel Mountains and their rivers. 

Mario Rivas, a member of Vet Voice Foundation and the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group, said the forest helps in his recovery after serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

"It's a climb, metaphorically," he said. "Once you're in location for combat you're ready. When you come back you can't just jump off that hill, you're gonna crash. You don't always land on both feet and these places offer that stepping stone."

The San Gabriel Mountains and rivers are the LA region's largest recreation back yard for fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities. Over the years, funding cuts have left the forest with missing or damaged trail signs, outdated bathrooms, little visitor information and programs, and too few rangers to oversee an area that is three times larger than New York City.

A bill to protect this forest was introduced in the last Congress, but according to Rivas, it unfortunately died.

"This last Congress was the first Congress since World War II that has not protected a single new acre of public land as a national park, national recreation area or national monument or wilderness area."

Local Congresswoman Judy Chu supports designating the forest as a national recreation area to improve and protect the mountains. Once the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study is complete, she said, she'll work with the communities involved and listen to everyone's comments in order to help ensure that the final plan reflects the communities' priorities.

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