For the past two years, I’ve been studying three pieces of legislation proposed by Congresswoman Judy Chu, California District 27. In March of 2014 official drafts were released:
If passed, the legislation would create a San Gabriel National Recreation Area (NRA). This would place a National Park overlay upon approximately 621,860 acres of the San Gabriel Valley and the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests.
Several dozen cities along the foothills and San Gabriel River are included in the NRA boundaries, from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino and south along the San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo Rivers to Santa Fe Springs. Additionally, in the San Gabriel Mountains, sections of the river would be designated as “Wild and Scenic” and sections of the mountain range as “Wilderness.” These designations would modify the type of access and usage allowed in those areas.
Should we rejoice, be concerned or both? A closer look:
Proposed NRA map PDF
A National Recreation Area located near a major population center such as the San Gabriel Valley “…can combine scarce open spaces with the preservation of significant historic resources. Additionally, important natural areas can provide outdoor recreation for large numbers of people.”*
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act states that “…certain rivers with outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. ”**
The Wilderness Act protects land defined as “…an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” “Wilderness is the wildest of the wild. It has no roads, no development.”***
• Numerous water agencies have stated that our primary water source, the San Gabriel River, could be negatively impacted. 90% of that water is captured for use by local cities. 85% of the water needs of the City of Glendora are fulfilled by this river. Our water supply could be reduced if recreation or the protection of “the free-flowing condition and special character” of the San Gabriel River is deemed more important than capture of water for use by the citizens.
• The current legislation has undefined boundaries which will not be decided until after the legislation is passed.
• Currently there are no federal funds available for the implementation of this legislation. We could be asked to tax ourselves in the future to pay for it.
• With the NRA, cities will see an increased demand for maintenance of their roads and for police and fire resources.
•Decision-making regarding implementation and management of the NRA would be under the jurisdiction of the US Deptartment of Interior. Will the voice of individual cities be heard?
The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, along with the City of Glendora, has asked that a full federal study of the Wild and Scenic and Wilderness designations be completed prior to the legislation being drafted. The studies have been partially completed. The “Suitability” portion of the study, which requires extensive public notification and hearings to ensure that all benefits and concerns are known to the residents prior to implementation of the designations, has not been done.
This legislation will impact a large number of people and a vast area of land. Deciding whether it is beneficial for the San Gabriel Valley now and for the future should not be rushed or taken lightly. It is not a partisan issue, and ultimately should be decided by the citizens. We are all stakeholders in our mountains and rivers, regardless of political affiliation.
To learn more and lend your voice to the discussion, please attend a Town Hall meeting on Wed., May 21st at 7pm. at the Citrus Valley Association of Realtors in Glendora. All are welcome. Speakers include a representative from Congresswoman Judy Chu’s office, the water agencies, National Forest Service, Director of Environmental Analysis, and elected officials from foothill cities.