President Donald Trump’s latest executive order opening the door for the prospect of mining the currently protected natural land inside the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument has spurred some Santa Clarita Valley environmentalists to act.
Trump signed an executive order late last month ordering the Secretary of the Interior to review all presidential designations under the Antiquities Act since 1996 that involve national monuments larger than 100,000 acres.
More than 346,000 acres of pristine and protected natural land inside the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument surrounding the SCV were on a list of 24 national monuments targeted by the president’s executive order.
On October 10, 2014, President Barack Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument from existing National Forest acreages including about 342,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest and 4,000 acres of the San Bernardino National Forest.
By designating the area a national monument, the proclamation protected it by honoring existing rights and prohibiting any new drilling or mining.
Removing the area’s protective status, however, would remove its protection against mining.
“It could devastating if it was reversed,” Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, a member of the National Forest Foundation and president of the Community Hiking Club, told The Signal Thursday, referring to the San Gabriel Mountains’ national monument status.
Erskine-Hellrigel and others in the National Forest Foundation have written a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump in response to the executive order, spelling out specifically what essential areas inside the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument must be protected.
For more than three years, she and others have been working on the National Forest Foundation’s San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Management Plan, studying “what really has to be preserved” inside the monument area.
“We have identified how everything on our list needs to be preserved,” she said.
The group expects to mail the letter this week.
On its website, the foundation boasts raising and investing more than $3 million to help restore its unique ecosystems and make it accessible to the “diverse communities” within Los Angeles County.
Michael Murphy is Santa Clarita’s intergovernmental relations manager who has been monitoring the plans and actions of Mexican-based mining giant Cemex which up until two years ago held permits to mine Soledad Canyon.
The Cemex property is near – but outside of – the area identified as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Murphy was asked by The Signal Thursday if the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument escapes scrutiny by the feds since it is managed by the Department of Agriculture – and not by the Department of the Interior named in the executive order.
“No,” he told The Signal.
“The executive order, in directing the Secretary of the Department of the Interior ordering him, in conducting his review to consult with and coordinate with other Departments,” he said.
“And, he (Trump) specifically called out the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture,” he said.
It is the mission of the National Forest Foundation to work at improving the stewardship, restoration, recreation, management, and outreach to the community of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Erskine-Hellrigel pointed out Thursday that The Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, because of its proximity to more than 17 million people in Southern California, remains one of the busiest and most urban in the nation, attracting about three million visitors each year.
“The monument status (in 2014) did not change any forest user use,” she said. “All recreational users can still do what they did before.”
The San Gabriel Mountains account for 70 percent of the open space in Los Angeles County and provide residents with more than one-third of the county’s drinking water.
Some of the other national monuments listed by the White House as now being reviewed according to the executive order, include:
► Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (1.4 million acres).
► Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, proclaimed by President Clinton in 1996. (1.7 million acres).
► Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (1 million acres).
► Giant Sequoia National Monument in California, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (327,769 acres).
► Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (175,160 acres).
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