Obama Weighs National Monument Status for San Gabriel Mountains; Plan Would Address Crowding, Pollution

Families play in the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest. The San Gabriel’s wrinkled slopes and lush canyons are visited by 3.5 million visitors a year. (Credit: Los Angeles Times/Francine Orr)

Families play in the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest. The San Gabriel’s wrinkled slopes and lush canyons are visited by 3.5 million visitors a year. (Credit: Los Angeles Times/Francine Orr)

President Obama is considering a plan to designate the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument, an action intended to address crowding and pollution, and enhance recreational opportunities for a range that lies within an hour’s drive for 10 million people.

The cash-strapped U.S. Forest Service currently manages the mountains, where picnic sites and trail heads are typically strewn with trash and broken glass. Without a ranger in sight, some visitors illegally barbecue in the middle of rivers, pitch tents alongside narrow roads and are injured or killed hiking on dangerous trails.

Under a national monument designation, the Forest Service would give priority to recreation, garbage and graffiti removal, traffic, signage, hiking trails and education programs. The new status would also provide more protection for wildlife and curtail mining and other activities banned in most national monuments.

The new status is being championed by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), who introduced a bill this year to address problems in the 655,000-acre range by creating a “national recreation area” co-managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. Legislation on her bill has stalled.

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