Monumentizing Doesn’t Magically Produce More Funding: San Gabriel Version

There’s an interesting LA Times article on the San Gabriel National Monument.  It’s easy for a Prez to designate something.. it’s easy to to claim that it’s now under “permanent protection”.. not so easy to have enough money to manage visitors..

Nine years after President Obama upgraded the region to monument status — an act intended to foster a cleaner and safer wilderness — park officials and volunteers have been struggling to cope with the consequences of surging visitation, particularly in summertime.


But how exactly would making a Monument itself make something cleaner and safer?  And it’s not a Wilderness (granted I don’t exactly know what the reporter meant by wilderness). Maybe the Angeles needed more funding, not a Monument designation. I wonder how often this kind of “magically more money” thinking is involved in Monumentizing.

Refuse has been a health concern in the area since 2000, when the California Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered the Forest Service to reduce trash levels in the East Fork to zero within three years.

In response, rangers and volunteers were stationed at popular picnic sites to direct visitors to roadside trash bins and provide them with information about environmental issues and litter laws. They also posted “No Littering” signs printed in English and Spanish.

That strategy was abandoned a few years later because of budget cuts.

Now, there is renewed talk of devising strategies to limit visitors and instruct them on how to be better stewards of the environment.


The flood of ill-behaved tourists isn’t the only reason for the area’s problems. Implementation of a management plan for the East Fork, finalized in 2019, was stalled by COVID-19 and a lawsuit.

“We desperately need an East Fork stewardship plan that is adequately funded and staffed,” said Isaac Brown, a senior scientist at Stillwater Sciences, a consulting firm specializing in restoring rivers and floodplains.

The Forest Service has long complained of high turnover rates in management, chronic budget cuts, and being unable to pay wages high enough to attract sufficient numbers of “forestry technicians” to remove all the trash that accumulates each day along the East Fork. Pay for such positions in Angeles National Forest start at about $43,600 a year, officials said.

Most of the Forest Service’s budget is set aside for wildfire protection, as well as repairing campgrounds, roads and infrastructure damaged by torrential rains earlier this year, officials said.

Some critics see a connection between chronic overcrowding and the promotional efforts of large nonprofits that seek to increase access to the monument. Critics say the organizations have failed to take into account the toll on wildlife and habitat.

A discarded BBQ grill rests atop a heap of trash beside a river.
Piles of trash have not only blighted the landscape in San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, they have also raised contamination concerns for one of the region’s largest watersheds.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Belen Bernal, executive director of Nature for All, a coalition of environmental and community groups that has long campaigned for more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, agrees — up to a point.

“It’s true that we are looking at increased access,” Bernal said. “But during the summer months it’s a whole different ball game. This is a management issue.

“We’re not entirely happy about the situation in the monument. Just a year away from its 10th anniversary, it still doesn’t have enough restrooms, dumpsters or even a visitor center.”



4 thoughts on “Monumentizing Doesn’t Magically Produce More Funding: San Gabriel Version”

  1. There’s the same problem with Bears Ears National Monument. It covers like an 8th of the state of Utah. Monument status is attracting a lot more people to visit the area, and it also requires the BLM to crack down and enact a bunch of additional restrictions micromanaging what the public is allowed to do there. But no matter what the monument proclamation or the eventual management plan says, the BLM has no hope of being able to enforce much of anything with the handful or law enforcement officials in the Monticello Field Office. And monument status did not give them any additional funding, so they’re just expected to do more with the same resources they had before. That’s not “protecting” anything.

  2. About time a spotlight was put on this Monument. It is one of the most foolish ever designated. Belen Bernal should rename her outfit “trash for all”. This clueless non profit and other similar usual suspects like Wilderness Society and Sierra Club have crowed for years about their blessed monument, locking arms with one of the nations most ignorant yet entrenched politicians, Judy Chu. Now they have turned their focus to busing more people into the Angeles, a sure recipe for other great LA nature destinations like Switzer Falls and Mt. Wilson to become trashed, just like East Fork. Local FS leadership fall all over themselves to support this. But take a look at any of the pressers or photo ops for this NM. You will not see the Forest Service shield anywhere, a deliberate slap in the face to hardworking people who take the low pay for a futile attempt to clean up this disgusting canyon. This NM was Chu’s revenge after the Park Service studied the area and passed on Park or Nat. Rec Area designation and NPS take over. The FS may have got their own bit of payback. First there was a stupidly drawn, arbitrary boundary that resulted in sacking of the Forest Sup, Ranger, and Dep. Regional Forester. Then a reorganization from 3 Districts (logically drawn on watershed boundaries) down to 2. Finally culminating in wasting millions and 4 years on a Monument Plan amendment that promised “social justice”. In hindsight that plan should have emphasized more practical matters like limiting visitor numbers and buying more dumpsters. I guess Obama and allies figured it should be the FS’s job to fix the crappy mess state and local agencies made in economically segregated and population bleeding LA County. What a bill of goods the local residents and all Americans were sold by this debacle. Without limits on # of cars and people it’s only a matter of time before there is a mass casualty fire. The FS needs to press the State and County who operate the highways into the forest to count cars and turn people away. And double the capacity of trash haul trucks and dumpsters, as well as people. The notion the Forest cannot afford this is totally unsubstantiated. Ask anyone who has tried to FOIA the agency for budget information, you’ll get a true definition of smoke and mirrors. The idea that education will get people to change behavior is noble but incredibly naive. Better get up early if you want social justice at Angeles NF.

    • OKS.. this seems like a good story for a reporter.. do you know anyone who has tried to FOIA the Angeles for budget info?Tell us more about the sacking of the Forest Sup ranger and DRF.. Also do you have links to the NPS report and the Monument Plan?

  3. NPS Special Resource Studies –

    Schiff could not be outdone by Chu, so there was another SRS 3 years later called Rim of the Valley, including some lands overlapping the previous –

    Here’s the SGMNM Plan –

    Will just say that within a year of NM designation, DR retired, F. Sup. was “transferred” to Region, and DRF moved to another region.


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