Friday Querry: San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Mixed feelings about this one. I have long been a supporter of protections for sensitive areas, and while areas of the San Gabriel Mountains suffer severe strain from overuse, the change in designation from National Forest to National Monument has seemed to revolve just as much, if not more, around a question of money. If that is the case, why not simply fund the Forest Service to the degree that it can adequately maintain the area to begin with, and forego the bureaucratic hand-off? 

The National Forests have been underfunded for years, for decades even, and it is that lack of means that have resulted in deferred oversight, and maintenance, of facilities. I don't believe the National Park Service possesses any special insight or training for which the National Forest Service is lacking by comparison. What it does possess more of is funding, the money to get things done.

Huge swaths of the San Gabriel Mountains, in both the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests are already protected with Wilderness area designations and suffer comparatively little impact from visitors. Those areas plagued by human-caused degradation are those within easy reach of the urban population, and predominantly along the mountain roadways. They are easily identified, and have been known as problem areas for years. It shouldn't require a change in designation to earmark funding, and direct it, to those areas.

Whether anyone admits to it now or not, no one should be surprised by the appearance of use fees, and hiking only trail signs, in the future. There seems to be a lot of excitement right now concerning the change; it sounds like a great thing, a National Monument right on our doorstep. I have willingly paid to visit many Monuments over the years, and enjoyed the time there, hiking, camping, etc. But I can't recall a single instance in which the bike was taken down from the roof-top rack and ridden. That, of course, is the rub, at least as far as I am concerned. Trail access for mountain biking. I can hike up there regardless. Whether the mountains are called a Forest or a Monument makes little difference when I am hoofing it. What I don't want to see are familiar trails that I like to roll along, suddenly become off limits, because of that one day the Forest became a Monument.

Many questions remain, and I don't think they will be answered when the President makes his announcement today at Bonelli Park. Maybe my mind has been jaded by time and a long string of broken promises - the forked-tongue syndrome of saying one thing and doing another. It may take years before this thing plays out fully. 

What does everyone think?


  1. Access for bikes was my first thought. Another angle is: National Forests are logged, mined and drilled. Monuments are not (or am I misled?)

    1. That has always been my impression as well - more protections and more restrictions - not as many as a National Park, but more than a National Forest. Of course I also thought all NM's were managed by the NPS, though it seems I was wrong and management can vary Monument to Monument, and therefore restrictions can vary as well.


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