Proposed legislation would expand San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and create a San Gabriel River National Recreation Area

  • Posted on 27 October 2015
  • By John Monsen
The purple area shows the proposed expansion area; the blue area shows the proposed San Gabriel River National Recreation Area.

The mighty San Gabriels Mountains are the iconic backdrop to Southern California's foothill communities and an irreplaceable natural resource. The Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument supply L.A. with more than 700,000 acres of public open space, clean air and drinking water. Our backyard mountain range provides an important home for wildlife, and it is a recreational oasis for more than 3 million people a year, rivaling the attendance at better-known national parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone.

Monument generating more funding for visitor services

But L.A.'s mountains are a troubled paradise. The U.S. Forest Service, the agency tasked with managing our federal public lands in the San Gabriel Mountains, lacks adequate resources for trash pickup, visitor education or field rangers. National Forest recreation areas along the San Gabriel River north of Azusa lack basic amenities like parking spaces, safe river access points, bathrooms and bilingual visitor education.  

In 2014, the Sierra Club joined other community and environmental groups in encouraging President Obama to establish the San Gabriel Mountain National Monument, which he did just over a year ago. How is our new 346,177 acre national monument doing? Quite well for a one-year-old.

National recognition of the San Gabriel Mountains has made the national monument a higher federal funding priority with $3 million added to its budget in 2015 for more field rangers, the reopening of visitor centers and increased trash pickup. The monument is also attracting millions of dollars in private support from non-profits like the Forest Foundation. Chronic problems are beginning to be addressed.

Proposed Condor Peak Wilderness north of Sunland-Tujunga would be part of an expanded San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Credit: Carole Scurlock

Although the new national monument is doing well, key areas in the San Gabriel Mountains were left out of it, including the historic front range of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Pasadena and Altadena made famous during the Great Hiking Era a century ago.

Proposed act would expand national monument

On October 23, Rep. Judy Chu of Pasadena (D-27th District) introduced the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act. The act would complete the national monument on the west by adding 109,403 acres to it (see purple area in map above).  

“I applaud Rep. Chu for her efforts to protect our wildlife, and increase access to this environmental treasure for generations to come,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-28th District) a co-sponsor of the bill along with Congressmembers Grace Napolitano, Linda Sanchez and Tony Cardenas. The bill may eventually include expansion of the national monument to include the San Gabriel Mountains in San Bernardino County, if there's enough public support.

The Sierra Club is a founding member of San Gabriel Mountains Forever, a group dedicated to better protecting the mountain range and improving recreational access.

What proposed legislation would do

The legislation also will establish a new 51,107 acre National Recreation Area (NRA) along the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers and the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor south of the national monument (see blue area on map above). Much like the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, this an overlay designation that would be managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the Army Corp of Engineers, state and county agencies, conservancies and cities. The National Park Service has a well-deserved reputation for high quality visitor education and resource protection.

Establishing a national recreation area along the San Gabriel River corridor will bring in new resources and expertise. It could enhance parks in communities adjacent to the river and connect them with San Gabriel Mountains through bikeways and transit to trails. The proposed national recreation area would permanently protect a critical wildlife corridor between the San Gabriel Mountains and Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County.

“We believe that Rep. Chu’s legislation will benefit park-poor communities of the San Gabriel Valley and beyond by better connecting them with the recreational opportunities in the San Gabriel Mountains,” said Hop Hopkins, Senior Organizing Manager for the Sierra Club in Southern California. “The Sierra Club sees Rep. Chu’s legislation as part of a broader effort to diversify access to our wonderful natural areas like the San Gabriel Mountains.”

Hop Hopkins (left), Senior Organizing Manager for the Sierra Club in Southern California, and members of San Gabriel Mountains Forever went to Washington, D.C., to press their case for an expansion of L.A.'s newest national monument. Credit: Hop Hopkins

The Sierra Club is a founding member of San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF), a coalition of community and environmental groups working together to permanently protect the San Gabriels Mountains, improve recreational access and develop a diverse generation of stewards for our public lands. SGMF supports the addition of 120,000 acres of wilderness in the San Gabriel Mountains – the highest level of federal public land protection there is – and the establishment of Wild & Scenic Rivers to protect free-flowing rivers such as Little Rock Creek.  

Over the last few years, San Gabriel Mountains Forever has built up extensive support for these enhancements from cities, water agencies, businesses, community and recreational groups. This widespread public support paid off in Santa Clarita this July when Rep. Steve Knight (R-25th District) introduced legislation to establish the 70,000 acre Castaic Wilderness northwest of Santa Clarita in the section of the Angeles National Forest between Interstate 5 and CA-14. Additional wilderness legislation is expected from Rep. Chu and others next year.

You can visit for more information on San Gabriel Mountains Forever. If you would like to help out, you can sign up for more information on the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Forest Committee Facebook page or contact Roberto Morales, Community Organizer for the Sierra Club, at  for volunteer opportunities.

John Monsen is a consultant to San Gabriel Mountains Forever and Co-Chair of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Forest Committee. He was a member of the Sierra Club’s National Field Staff in Los Angeles for seven years where he worked on public lands and social justice issues.

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