LOS ANGELES - Local residents, community groups and organizations praised Representative David Dreier (R-San Dimas) for introducing his "Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests Protection Act" today.
Congressman Dreier's legislation will protect an additional 18,000 acres of public land in the San Gabriel Mountains as wilderness. These areas will become new additions to two existing wilderness areas in the range: Sheep Mountain and Cucamonga.
"By preserving these lands, Congressman Dreier's bill benefits our region and state and leaves a legacy for families today and long into the future," said Jil Stark, of Claremont. "This bill helps ensure that the San Gabriel Mountains will continue to be an important source of our drinking water, clean air, beautiful views and nearby recreation."
The San Gabriel Mountains - which stretch across the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests - are some of the most heavily used forests in the country. Surrounded by densely urbanized counties of Southern California, this range is the closest outdoors escape for more than 15 million Southland residents.
"At a time when many families are feeling the budget pinch in their wallets, these mountains offer an accessible and affordable destination for playing in the snow, picnics, hiking, fishing, and enjoying the natural beauty of God," said The Rev. Dr. Arthur "Art" Lawrence Cribbs Jr., Pastor of San Marino Congregational United Church of Christ. "Look at the snow-covered mountains today. These views are both a life source and an inspiration for our lives."
In the Angeles National Forest, the mountains are the source of more than one-third of Los Angeles County's drinking water, and provide more than 70 percent of its open space. It is also the habitat for many endangered and rare species including Nelson bighorn sheep, mountain yellow-legged frog and California condor.
The rivers and creeks of this range are also some of Southern California's most popular destinations for swimming, fishing and outdoor exploration.
"Anglers want to ensure that some of the best trout fishing waters in Southern California are protected as wild & scenic rivers," said Bill Reeves, a longtime fisherman, river volunteer and conservationist. "These unspoiled rivers still need to be permanently preserved for future generations."
The San Gabriel Mountains face many potential challenges: new roads and energy installations, alterations to rivers, and heavy visitor use without adequate trash, parking and bathroom services.
While conservation leaders praised the legislation, they noted that some of the provisions-such as the management of wildfire in wilderness-are works in progress. "We look forward to working with Congressman Dreier to strengthen and improve this legislation as it moves through Congress, and hope to see it eventually signed into law," said Daniel Rossman of San Gabriel Mountains Forever and a staffer with The Wilderness Society.
San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF) is a partnership of local business owners, residents, faith and community leaders, recreation groups, health and social service organizations, and conservation groups who have come together to protect wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in the San Gabriel Mountains.
To preserve the most pristine areas, San Gabriel Mountains Forever is working to protect about 36,000 acres as new additions to three existing wilderness areas: Sheep Mountain, San Gabriel and Cucamonga. SGMF is also working to establish critical wild and scenic river protections for about 44 miles of three rivers: the San Gabriel River (east, west and north forks), San Antonio Creek and Middle Fork Lytle Creek.
Federal wilderness and wild and scenic river designations offer the strongest protection available for public wild lands and require Congressional legislation.
Rep. Dreier is one of two California members to introduce wild lands protection bills on the first day of the 112thCongress. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) reintroduced the Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Act to protect wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in north San Diego County.
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