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Obama Will Declare The Majestic Yet Neglected San Gabriel Mountains A National Monument

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One of Los Angeles' greatest arguments for itself is its kind of bonkers geography, perhaps best depicted in the photo above that shows a surfer in Venice with the snowy San Gabriels looming in the distance. Southern California is a magical place where you could catch some waves in the morning and throw snowballs in the afternoon if you wanted.

But many of the people who really care about the majestic San Gabriels say that these mountains have been neglected for too long. Crime, graffiti and trash mar the wilderness in our backyard. San Gabriel Mountain supporters hope that President Obama's plan to declare about half of the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains range—346,000 acres—a national monument will change that. The section of the range that stretches from the Castaics to the San Bernardino County border will be named the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by Obama, who will be in San Dimas to make the announcement himself on Friday, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

For over a decade, community and environmental groups have been pushing for it to be treated like the national treasure it is. Right now the chronically underfunded US Forest Service manages the mountains, which means it's not receiving a lot of funding and philanthropists willing to chip in can't donate to it. Turning the area into a national monument will change that.

It takes an act of Congress to declare an area a national park, but it only takes an executive order from the president to declare a national monument. (Some national parks, like the Grand Canyon, were once national monuments.) With a stroke of his pen, Obama can ensure the land will get more federal attention and resources. With this order, the National Park Service will be co-managing the park along with the U.S. Forest Service.

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U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) recently introduced a motion to Congress to declare the area a National Recreational Area, but that didn't go anywhere, according to the Los Angeles Times. So she asked the White House to step in, and Obama assured her that his executive order means the mountains will receive better funding. She calls it an important first step.

Susana Reyes, Sierra Club board member, cheered the decision, in a statement, "For decades our community has been working to see this area protected. It's a wild oasis right in L.A.’s backyard. It’s just great to see it protected as a national monument. Not only will that improve the visitor experience now and help improve public access for everyone, it will also ensure the things we love about the San Gabriels remain to be enjoyed by others."

Once Obama officially signs the designation, the federal government will officially begin working on a management plan, according to KPCC. Supporters say it won't affect nearby property owned by the state, county or private property. And hunting, fishing, hiking and off-roading on designated roads will continue.

Not everyone is happy. Many of the folks opposed to the plan are not excited by the prospect of Obama bypassing Congress with an executive order. San Bernardino County was particularly resistant to the plan, and so that's why the monument ends at county line, excluding Mt. Baldy, Wrightwood and Cucamonga Canyon. San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford told the Tribune that San Bernardino county residents were in the dark about this proposal: "There have been discussions for years and years in the San Gabriel Valley. There has not been a single public hearing on this in San Bernardino County."

Our own Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said he's worried about how it will affect firefighting, flood control, water resources and roads. He said in a statement, "Congresswoman Chu and the president are bypassing stakeholders by rushing this monument designation."

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Some interesting numbers: the mountains are less than a 90-minute drive for 17 million people, it provides 70 percent of Los Angeles County's open space and 35 percent of its water. KPCC has a great breakdown of what the designation could mean and the political fights behind it.