National Monument Expanded with Minimal Funding, Same Landlord

Not much to spend, and some goes to a questionable transit project.

2 mins read

Press releases from Rep. Judy Chu (CA-28), the Department of Agriculture and the White House, accompanied by multiple fact sheets and maps, triggered a veritable flash flood of media coverage about expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on May 2nd.

“What a momentous day for Angelenos!” exclaimed Chu in her statement. “Today’s proclamation will be so meaningful to our region. As we celebrate this proclamation by President Biden, let’s recommit to protecting these pristine public lands for the future and working together to give everyone access to their immense benefits.”

(above) Local detail of the National Monument’s new southern boundary. Click maps to expand.

The bottom line about funding associated with the expansion could easily be missed amid the ballyhoo and backslapping. There isn’t very much new money associated with the expansion, and some goes to a questionable project.

A FAQ from the US Forest Service broke the news about the lack of funding as gently as possible by stating, “While a national monument designation does not bring additional resources, this area is important to many and that has attracted additional support with this designation.”

That additional support was itemized as follows:

  • The Forest Service is leveraging partnerships across the spectrum to bring new staff, resources and restoration to this area. This includes, 8 new field rangers, Tribal Conservation Corps funding, $1 million in funding through Nature for All and $2.3 million in GAOA funding.
  • The State of California, through the California State Water Resources Control Board, will fund efforts to reduce trash and other pollution on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River providing a cleaner and healthier watershed for all to enjoy.
  • Private Philanthropy, led by Resources Legacy Fund, has pledged $1 million in new investments for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and expansions area.

As reported by Local News Pasadena in September, Chu claimed the Angeles National Forest had 19 forest ranger positions that it couldn’t fill because of a lack of qualified candidates. Now the Forest Service has authorization to hire eight more, pushing current local forest ranger job vacancies to over 25. Where will those qualified rangers be found?

Whether the Tribal Conservation Corps funding will be through the California Tribal Conservation Corps or utilize a grant from any one of several federally funded conservation programs for Native Americans, the closest existing program of that nature is the Tiuvac’a’ai’ Tribal Conservation Corps (TTCC) operating out of San Fernando and Pacoima.

Expanding the TTCC program is certainly an option but it is unlikely to impact the San Gabriel Valley section of the up-scaled National Monument. For the foothills above Pasadena and Altadena, a local Tribal Conservation Corps program would, most likely, have to be built from scratch. By uhh… somebody. And that somebody needs to be subject to serious due diligence.

We know Chu already has her eyes on Nature for All funding to pay for Transit-to-Trails, a previous failure when piloted in Pasadena.

As Local News Pasadena reported in July, inviting the urban public deeper into the forest will result in habitat destruction, additional litter clean-up, restroom maintenance (where restrooms exist at all), even more mountain rescues and fires.

As we said in July, reducing urban isolationism is a laudable goal. But without adequately addressing the real-world issues of busing people into the National Monument, financing Transit-to-Trails at this juncture is cuckoo.

Where federal funding should be spent prior to Transit-to-Trails is on Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) deferred maintenance and infrastructure projects in the Angeles National Forest. Kudos for recognizing that, Mr. Biden. $2.3 million is a desperately needed injection of funds.

Trash and graffiti in Upper Eaton Canyon. Photo: Edgar McGregor /

It’s also welcome news that the California State Water Resources Control Board will fund trash and pollution clean-up efforts on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. As Local News Pasadena reported in November, the Forest Service is a terrible landlord when it comes to popular recreational locations frequented by urbanites, and that includes high-visitation destinations like Upper Eaton Canyon.

So, enjoy the new National Monument expansion in our backyard. But please leave your spray paint cans and plastic trash at home.

Is that too much to ask?

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Phil Hopkins

Phil is the Associate Publisher of Local News Pasadena. He is a 35-year resident of the city and his favorite local delicacy is the Combo Grinder at Connal's.
Email: [email protected]

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