7 Things to Know About the Newest National Monument

san gabriel mountains

Say hel­lo to the San Gabriel Moun­tains Nation­al Mon­u­ment, the lat­est to join the list of 110 nation­al mon­u­ments in the Unit­ed States.

In Octo­ber, after a decade of pub­lic sup­port and encour­age­ment, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma declared the San Gabriel Moun­tains as a nation­al mon­u­ment. He did so under Antiq­ui­ties Act, which allowed him to use his exec­u­tive pow­ers to uni­lat­er­al­ly make the dec­la­ra­tion (as 15 pres­i­dents have done before him for oth­er sites across the U.S.).

This new des­ig­na­tion means that California’s San Gabriel Moun­tains are now offi­cial­ly pre­served as a his­toric land­mark and area of sci­en­tif­ic inter­est. It’s a move that impacts the envi­ron­ment, the out­door recre­ation indus­try, and the tourism indus­try. Here’s what you need to know about the San Gabriel Mountains.

The Where
More than 15 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia flock to the San Gabriel moun­tains to get their fix of the out­doors. They don’t have to go too far: the range stretch­es from north­ern Los Ange­les Coun­ty to west­ern San Bernardi­no Coun­ty. You can see the range in the dis­tance right from L.A.

The San Gabriel Moun­tains pro­vide 70% of the open space in the park-poor area, rep­re­sent­ing a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty for peo­ple in this increas­ing­ly urban area to leave the city and inter­act with wilderness.

The Wildlife
The new Nation­al Mon­u­ment encom­pass­es 346,177 acres of wilder­ness. The area is home to a mul­ti­tude of species, includ­ing some sen­si­tive and endan­gered species like the Cal­i­for­nia con­dor, moun­tain lion, moun­tain yel­low-legged frog, and Nelson’s Bighorn sheep. The new des­ig­na­tion will help ensure that these species are protected.

The Envi­ron­men­tal Impact
South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­ans rely on the San Gabriel Moun­tains to help puri­fy the pol­lut­ed city air, and the moun­tains pro­vide 35% of the drink­ing water in the region.

The His­to­ry
You can imag­ine that such a large area of land incor­po­rates some his­tor­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant places. In fact, there are more than 600 sig­nif­i­cant sites locat­ed through­out the new Nation­al Mon­u­ment. For instance, the Mt. Wil­son Obser­va­to­ry is where the first mod­ern mea­sure­ment of the speed of light was tak­en, and where galax­ies beyond the Milky Way were discovered.

The Activ­i­ties
There’s a lot to do in the San Gabriel Mountains—hiking, camp­ing, cycling, fish­ing, and win­ter sports. Local ski areas include Mount Baldy and Moun­tain High.

Part of the impact that the new des­ig­na­tion will have is improv­ing access to these out­door activ­i­ties. There are not a ton of oppor­tu­ni­ties for the peo­ple in Los Ange­les Coun­ty to explore the out­doors, so mak­ing it more con­ve­nient to play out­side is a huge ben­e­fit. Inter­act­ing with the out­doors means learn­ing to love it, respect it, and pro­tect it. It results in health­i­er, more envi­ron­men­tal­ly respon­si­ble citizens.

The Changes
Going for­ward, this des­ig­na­tion means that the San Gabriel Moun­tains will receive bet­ter fund­ing and resources to improve the area. Camp­ing facilities—which are often overcrowded—will be improved. Park­ing areas will be expand­ed, mak­ing it eas­i­er to get to the recre­ation areas. There will also be a push on clean­ing up graf­fi­ti and trash left behind in the past. More trails will be devel­oped, edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams will be imple­ment­ed, and addi­tion­al park rangers will be hired.

devil's punchbowl

San Gabriel Moun­tains For­ev­er
Most South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­ans are excit­ed at the changes to come. Chief among them are the cit­i­zens involved with San Gabriel Moun­tains For­ev­er, a group of res­i­dents, local busi­ness lead­ers, city offi­cials, and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers who have been push­ing to pro­tect the San Gabriel Moun­tain area for more than a decade. After many years of cam­paign­ing, San Gabriel Moun­tains For­ev­er are final­ly reap­ing the rewards for all their hard work.