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President Obama Permanently Protects Los Angeles' Backyard

10 Oct 2014  |   Mark Sheridan

Tags: Public Lands

Today President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument. His action permanently protects nearly 350,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles. 

First used by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents from both political parties to protect some of our most beloved natural resources and landscapes. The San Gabriel Mountains, visited by millions of people each year, account for 70 percent of Los Angeles County’s open space and help filter one third of the area’s drinking water. The now protected mountains are home to animals such as Nelson's Bighorn sheep, California condors, spotted owls, and mountain yellow-legged frogs. President Obama’s designation will give the area essential protection for wildlife, increase recreational opportunities, and will help spur investment in the area’s outdoor recreation economy. 

Polling has shown that 80% of Los Angeles County voters are in favor of further protections for the San Gabriel Mountains. Latino voters in the area are some of the most supportive of protecting the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument, with 88% in favor. In fact, a diverse local coalition, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever, has been working to protect the San Gabriel Mountains for the past decade.  The coalition includes Latino and Asian-American community groups, local business owners, and environmental organizations.  Additionally, U.S. Representatives Judy Chu, Grace Napolitano, Adam Schiff, Tony Cárdenas, and Linda Sánchez, whose districts are in or nearby the monument, have been vocal in advocating for protection of this special place. Despite the significant public support for protecting the San Gabriel Mountains, Congress failed to take action, leaving their protection in President Obama’s hands.

Public lands, like the San Gabriel Mountains, that are near urban areas are important for giving a greater diversity of Americans the opportunity to experience the outdoors. The Antiquities Act has been used before to establish national monuments in urban locations, most notably the Statue of Liberty. The Los Angeles Metropolitan area is one of the most diverse regions in the country, and many communities lack outdoor spaces. Protecting the San Gabriel Mountains will promote public health by giving communities access to outdoor spaces with a variety of recreational opportunities. 

Furthermore, the communities surrounding the new national monument not only stand to benefit from enhanced recreational opportunities but a monument designation will also help bolster the local economy.  National parks and monuments have been shown to increase economic activity and help to create and support local jobs.

The Antiquities Act is an important tool for giving presidents the ability to leverage foresight and protect some of our nation’s richest natural resources and historic sights for future generations. Just as Americans today appreciate places such as the Grand Canyon that were first protected as national monuments, future generations will be grateful that President Obama took action to protect the San Gabriel Mountains. The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument will leave a legacy of expanding access to the outdoors for the region’s diverse population and creating opportunities for recreation in a heavily urban and suburban area. 

(Photograph taken by Daniel)

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