A Peak Experience
By Alex Distefano
Whether you live in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside or San Bernardino counties, it’s easy to forget that in our own backyard exists a sanctuary for nature and recreation. The San Gabriel Mountains, a mountain range that stretches from Santa Clarita all the way to San Bernardino County, serves the region with beautiful scenery and numerous recreational opportunities such as hiking, camping and fishing.
But, Juana Torres of the San Gorgonio Chapter of the Sierra Club says that the mountains for years have been at risk of being ruined by pollution and overdevelopment.
Currently, she says the Sierra Club and a coalition of others are working desperately to make inroads with elected officials to get legislation drafted to preserve resources that—besides providing natural beauty and areas for outdoor recreation—provide us all with clean air and water.
“Lots of people might not realize how important these mountain ranges are, but aside from the clean air it helps to provide, the San Gabriel Mountains provide L.A. County with one-third of [its] drinking water,” Torres tells the Weekly. “It’s very important that people join our campaign to save these mountains. Our coalition, which is called [San Gabriel] Mountains Forever, is currently working to protect the land, which encompasses over 36,000 acres and 44 miles of wild and scenic rivers.”
The Mountains Forever coalition is currently working to re-designate the land as a National Recreation area, which would bring it under the authority of the National Park service, Torres says.
“Currently these mountains are federal lands under the Forest Service,” says Torres. “But with new legislation, and by creating this National Recreation area, it would bring in the National Park Service, [which] runs Death Valley and Yosemite National Park. This would not take the land away from the Forest Services, they would partner with the National Park service.”
Torres says that some of the goals are to reduce pollution, such as illegal dumping and littering in the mountain range’s many wild and scenic rivers.
“We want these certain areas with rivers and streams within the mountains to be places protected as wilderness,” Torres says. “This means, no roads or motorized vehicles, but all other recreational uses would still be allowed.
Aside from being a treasure trove of natural beauty, Torres also stresses the value of recreation in nature, as the mountains provide a location for many leisure activities such as hiking, fishing and more.
Torres is scheduled to make a presentation to the Sierra Club on Sept. 6, at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands. Torres’ speech will be entitled “A New Vision for the San Gabriel Mountains,” which will focus on the efforts to save the mountain rage. The event is free and open to the public.
Torres says that although not all of the land that makes up the San Gabriel Mountains is included in the proposed legislation to protect the region, there has been some progress, and the Sierra Club won’t give up.
“So far, we’ve been working with Congressman David Dreier [R-San Dimas], who introduced legislation to protect half of the acres, which is approximately 18,000 acres of land, and we’re working with him for our goal of all 36,000 acres. We hope to have this accomplished by the end of this year.”