My Council Statement on the SGM National Monument
In June of this year, Representative Judy Chu introduced a bill to Congress, HR 4858, the San Gabriel National Recreation Area Act. It was referred to the Congressional Natural Resources Committee and it is clear that it currently does not have enough support to move on. On August 16th, just 2 months after submitting HR4858 to Congress, Rep. Chu announced that she asked President Obama to use his executive power to create a San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, using the controversial Antiquities Act of 1906.
This past Friday, October 10th, President Obama signed a proclamation designating 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument. This is the 13th time our President had used his executive power to designate a national monument.
While it has been publicized that this monument was many years in the making, that could not be further from truth. It was implemented less than 7 weeks after it was announced. Some are confusing it with Rep. Chu’s National Recreation Area Act which did in fact undergo many years of study and input. The National Monument designation is different from the National Recreation Area bill and must not be considered the same. It does not have any written legislation to guarantee water rights, land management or recreation access.
I have actively expressed opposition to creating a National Monument for the following reasons:
• It is a bypass of Congress and the legislative process. The Antiquities Act was meant to be used for the protection of objects or treasures that are in imminent danger of damage or destruction. Our mountains have been protected by the US Forest Service for over a century and they are not in imminent danger.
• Trail maintenance, trash, and graffiti have been the main reasons cited by proponents for creating a National Monument. However those problems could be addressed by lobbying for additional funding from non-profits and manpower assistance from volunteer organizations without adding a new bureaucratic overlay.
• There has not been a single feasibility study, opportunities for community feedback, or any written legislation to provide local cities assurances that important issues such as water rights, land management and recreation access wouldn’t be negatively impacted. The LA County Board of Supervisors and the cities in LA Co. including Glendora did not have an opportunity to study and state a formal opinion on the designation before it was rapidly signed into effect.
• The purpose of a National Monument designation is to protect and preserve. That usually requires restrictions and regulations. We have received assurances that usage and access will remain the same but the USDA’s FAQ sheet says that usage and access will occur to “the extent consistent with the proper care and management of the objects protected b the designation and subject to the Secretary’s special uses authorities and other applicable laws.”
• The impact on our water supply is one of the most important issues. Many foothill cities get their drinking water from the San Gabriel River which is within the boundaries of the Monument. Our city captures 75-85% of our water from the river which allows us to be largely independent from expensive imported water from Northern California. It is entirely feasible that collection of water from the SG River could be restricted due to the Monument designation, and we now have zero written assurance that this won’t happen.
Included in the President’s National Monument proclamation is this concerning statement, “The San Gabriels’ rivers not only provide drinking water but are also areas of high ecological significance supporting rare populations of native fish, including the threatened Santa Ana sucker. The San Gabriel River supports rare arroyo chub and Santa Ana speckled dace, a species found only in the Los Angeles Basin.”
I spoke out when this designation was first proposed during our City Council meetings, at the Chamber Legislative Action Committee meeting, in media interviews and at two rallies that were held last week. I was joined by Council members from several other SG Valley cities, in addition to members from the California Trail Users Coalition, Public Lands for Public People, Mt. Baldy Lodge, Several Hiking groups, Glendora Community Conservancy, San Gabriel Valley Regional Conservancy (SGVRC), the Gold Prospector’s Association, the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA) and citizens from throughout the region. Many individuals and groups have become galvanized by concern over this bypass of Congress, lack of a public voice in the process and no knowledge of what this designation means for the future of our mountains.
Others who have publicly expressed opposition are:
• The San Bernardino Co. Board of Supervisors who unanimously expressed serious concerns about extending a National Monument into San Bernardino County. They wrote, “What does a national monument designation entail? How will it impact private property and water rights? How will it impact recreation? Would the county be allowed to improve or expand existing roads in the area? What about flood control?”
• Inland Valley Congressmembers Cook, Miller and McLeod stated that the bypass of the legislative process would not allow San Bernardino Co. constituents to participate in the development of a federal land-use designation that would significantly impact their lives. Additionally, they said that a serious cause for concern was the lack of sufficient information regarding potential impacts to public recreation and other uses.
• State Senators Huff and Morrell expressed similar concerns as did LA Co. Supervisor Antonovich. Verbal assurances were made by Rep. Chu that protections would be in place however nothing is in writing.
Because of the strong objections voiced by legislators in SB Co., approx. 300,000 acres in San Bernardino mountains that were originally supposed to be included, were removed from the President’s designation.
Now that the designation has been signed by President Obama, we must turn our attention to the development of the management plan. It will be very important for the City of Glendora and its citizens to be involved with the process and have our voice heard.
The USDA states that “within three years after the designation, a management plan will be developed with public input. The management plan will be developed and implemented…in an open and transparent process. The Sec. of Agriculture has directed the Forest Service to provide for maximum public involvement in the development of the plan…”
We cannot take it for granted that our city’s needs will be represented without our active involvement in the decision making process. I will do my best to ensure that Glendora has a seat at the table when these management choices are being made. However, to have the most impact, I will need the assistance of my fellow council members.
I make a motion that we prepare a letter, signed by all five council members, requesting that the City of Glendora be informed of and included in all planning meetings regarding the creation of a San Gabriel Mountains National Monument management plan. Since the USDA is the federal agency designated to oversee the monument, the letter should be sent to the individuals in charge of that agency and of our forest—Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, USFS Chief Bonnie and Angeles National Forest Superintendent Contreras. Additionally we need to send a copy of the letter to the SGV COG Executive Director along with the Chair of the COG EENR committee.
(Motion 2nd by Joe Santoro and passed unanimously by all council members on 10-14-14. Click the link below to read the attached letter signed by all five Glendora Councilmembers)