On Friday, President Barack Obama will declare 346,000 acres of forestland just north of Los Angeles as a national monument.
Supporters hope the move will free up both federal and private money that they say is needed to take better care of the San Gabriel Mountains forest area, a popular recreation destination with millions of visitors a year.
“This national forest is one of the most visited places in the country,” says Daniel Rossman, who as chair of the group San Gabriel Mountains Forever has been working for more than a decade to get more resources for the forestland.
Some who live near the forest have not wanted a monument designation, because they are concerned that it will come with restrictions, such as limits on land use.
But Rossman says the designation is necessary, because the Forest Service has had trouble keeping up with all the trash and pollution that comes with so many visitors.
“I’ve personally done clean-ups, picking up dirty diapers and old pieces of clothing,” Rossman says, adding that the mountains are responsible for 30 percent of the Los Angeles region’s water supply.
California Congresswoman Judy Chu says the president’s executive action will circumvent the current gridlock in Congress.
The monument designation will not only bring more personnel and federal money to the forest, it will also allow for private fundraising, says Chu.
“You can have a private-public partnership. And already we have non-profit and private donations that have been pledged,” Chu says.
The Forest Service will be able to set the privately-raised money aside for the San Gabriel Mountains monument; Something it couldn’t do for a national forest.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Judy Chu had been working on Congressional legislation for more than 10 years. Though she supports the change, she has not been advocating for it for that long.