National monument offers cherished green space in urban Los Angeles.
When you think about Los Angeles, your first thought probably isn’t “green space.” If you’re like me, your mind might go to Thomas Pynchon’s surreal depictions of 1960s and 70s metro area sprawl or the dystopian future city envisioned in Blade Runner.
The fact of that matter is it is a place rarely depicted as having iconic natural areas, and sadly there is some truth to these depictions. Los Angeles County is one of the most polluted regions in the United States.
But Los Angeles County is also home to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, a treasured landscape of rare chaparral shrubland as well as oak and conifer forest. These mountains account for a whopping 70 percent of the county’s open space, welcoming millions of visitors every year for outdoor recreation and providing critical wildlife habitat in an otherwise dense urban area.
Elected officials, community leaders and local supporters are now calling on President Biden to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include 109,000 acres of the adjacent Angeles National Forest.
Here are just a few reasons that the President should deliver on their request:
The expansion would greatly increase access to the monument.
The area targeted for expansion is closest to the San Fernando Valley, a large suburban area of predominantly low-income communities of color. This section is already the most visited portion of the Angeles National Forest—adding it to the national monument will ensure that it is more easily accessible for all!
The area contains a critical local water source.
It’s no secret that the West, including Southern California, is facing a climate change driven megadrought. In recent years, Los Angeles has even needed to enact on-and-off water use restrictions just to get by. The Angeles National Forest provides one-third of the county’s drinking water—permanent protection will ensure the region’s already stretched supply isn’t further burdened.
Permanent protection will help address the biodiversity and climate crises.
The San Gabriel Mountains are the largest contiguous landscape in Los Angeles County and a vital habitat for wildlife. Connection to the adjacent Castaic and San Bernardino Mountains enables natural migration and fosters species diversity, meaning even rare and endangered species call the area “home.” Plus, protecting the mature growth of the Angeles National Forest can help capture greenhouse gas emissions and filter the county’s air naturally.
The area contains rich cultural significance and history.
The San Gabriel Mountains’ original and enduring stewards, the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and Gabrieleño (also known as Kizh, Gabrielino, Tongva) Peoples, maintain deep connections to the landscape that monument expansion will honor. Additionally, the area contains two national historic trails and the old Mount Lowe Railway—a historic train that ferried residents to the Echo Mountain Resort.