Against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, I joined supporters at Peck Water Conservation Park along the Rio Hondo River on Saturday, June 14th to celebrate Congresswoman Judy Chu’s recent legislation to permanently protect over 615,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains, rivers, and parks. Co-sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Tony Cárdenas, supporters include local governments, school districts, water agencies, businesses, residents, and organizations like San Gabriel Mountains Forever. And it’s easy to see why.
Like 17 million others in greater L.A., I’m within an hour’s drive of the San Gabriel’s alpine peaks, coniferous forests, chaparral hills, and free-flowing rivers. These significant lands provide 70 percent of the county’s open space and one-third of its drinking water supply. They are also home to big horn sheep, California condor, mountain lion, and the Santa Ana sucker. Right in our urban backyard, I’ve hiked some of these hills and experienced firsthand these open spaces and wild places. And I’ve seen amazing wildlife – like this big horn sheep.
(Big Horn Sheep on Bridge to Nowhere Trail | Photo Credit: The City Project)
More than 3.5 million visitors picnic, hike, bike, fish, and camp in the forest each year – about as many as visit Yellowstone National Park. As I (and millions of others) know firsthand, these lands provide hugely important opportunities for outdoor recreation and experiencing nature in this diverse, highly urbanized region that is one of the most park-poor in the country. So it’s no surprise that these areas have the visitation (and concomitant challenges) to prove it.
As Congresswoman Chu said in introducing the bill, “there are very few options for Angelenos to enjoy the outdoors, and the options we do have are under immense stress from overuse.” By permanently protecting these lands and promoting federal, state, and local coordination and resources, Chu’s legislation can help address these challenges by promoting recreation to help all Angelenos experience the outdoors while better protecting our important open spaces.