Obama order upgrades Angeles National Forest

Obama order upgrades Angeles National Forest


Angeles National ForestOn Friday, President Obama carries his “executive orders” controversy to Southern California. In town since Thursday, he will redesignate half of the Angeles National Forest a national monument at the behest of Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The designation will give the U.S. Forest Service greater ability to manage the crowds and protect its natural wonders.”

Chu is running for re-election against Republican Jack Orswell.

Republicans have criticized the president for using the executive orders to bypass Congress’s authority, under the U.S. Constitution, to pass laws.

In this case, Chu sponsored H.R. 4858, the San Gabriel National Recreational Area Act. Chu’s bill would designate the Angeles Forest a national recreation area, an even higher designation than a national monument.

But H.R. 4858 has been buried in the Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee of the Committee on Natural Resources in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. However, if Obama signs the executive order, the new national monument may have no increase in its appropriation of funds unless Congress approves Chu’s bill.

More funding would mean more forest rangers to police the huge litter problem in the mountain canyons of the forest today.

After one Labor Day weekend in 2011, 40,000 pounds of trash was picked up. And in 2014, three campers started the Colby Fire by throwing toilet paper into a campfire; then the wind scattered the embers.

Not vetted

Kathryn Barger, chief deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, said Chu’s proposal had not been fully vetted with all stakeholders.

Barger said Los Angeles County has camps, dams, reservoirs, roads and other public works inside the forest. About 33 percent of L.A.’s drinking water comes from the Angeles Forest watershed. Lake Castaic, the main reservoir for Los Angeles that is supplied by northern California water, is in the Angeles Forest.

“We welcome more resources,” said Barger. But the county has a lot of investment in the forest that might be wasted.  On Sept. 30, 2014, L.A. County sought to build a $600,000 water pipeline in a portion of the Forest.

Class warfare

According to the Times, environmentalists are cheering the executive order. But working-class locals are worried about losing access to a popular recreational area that also supports middle-class jobs.

In 2013, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune ran a story titled, “Mountain bikers, environmentalists clash over Angeles National Forest plan.” It reported, “For the past seven years, the the U.S. Forest Service has been attempting to find a way to protect 37 roadless areas while keeping the public happy.” It detailed discussions and hearings involving mountain bikers and environmentalists. Now Obama’s sudden designation of the area as a national monument short-circuits that democratic process.

Young people and families use the forest for a cheap recreation place instead driving down to the beach. But environmentalists want forest access limited.  The forest attracts 32 million visitors each year, more than Yosemite or Yellowstone national parks.

Mt. Baldy residents and businesses protested in front of Chu’s office on Oct. 6. The residents don’t want to live inside a national monument. They feel they would no longer be able to access their cabins in the forest, hunt, hike, bike and use off-road vehicles.  Thousands of Southern Californians travel to Mt. Baldy to enjoy the ski resort.

On Oct. 8, Chu announced only half of the forest would be designated a national monument, leaving out the Mt. Baldy area.


The result of Obama’s executive order will be a new national monument without any additional funding, but with legal restrictions imposed on access and use. Today, any parking along the roads through the forest requires a National Forest Adventure Pass.

However, L.A. County has declared that passes are not required on county maintained roads and other areas. That might end once the area declared a monument. The forest already is registered as California Historical Landmark No. 717.

President Benjamin Harrison established Angeles National Forest in 1893.

Tags assigned to this article:
Jack OrswellJudy ChuMike AntonovichWayne Lusvardi

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