By: Roberto Morales
While California is known for its incredible natural diversity and majestic public lands, the San Gabriel Mountains play a vital role in our economy, recreation and relaxation. The recreational “backyard” for more than 17 million southern Californians, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is also the source of one-third of Los Angeles County’s drinking water.
As the largest minority group in America — one that is expected to grow to nearly 30 percent of the population by 2050 — the Latino community’s engagement is critical to ensuring the future success and preservation of our nation’s public lands. We must find ways to engage all segments of our population so that they become active users, owners and supporters of public lands.
At Nature for All, I work for all communities to ensure they have equal access to these places and on April 10 we celebrated the reintroduction of legislation, which would further protect and create access to the San Gabriel Mountains. Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Judy Chu reintroduced the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, which will protect wild lands, open space and rivers and improve recreation opportunities in Los Angeles County.
Stretching from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino, these open spaces provide the opportunity for Californians to enjoy the health benefits linked to outdoor activity, such as a decrease in childhood asthma and diabetes. Additionally, this legislation would designate 25.3 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the San Gabriel Mountains, which would allow further development of water projects to redirect water into underground aquifers.
In California, the Outdoor Industry Association reported that outdoor recreation, which is commonplace on public lands across the state, provides 691,000 jobs and more than $30.4 billion in wages leading to $92 billion in consumer spending and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Places like the San Gabriel Mountains are critical contributors to this industry locally and we all share the responsibility in protecting these public lands and encouraging stewardship. We need to ensure continued public access to these places in order to enhance the local tourism and outdoor economies, but also to strengthen the diverse social fabric of the region.
Our nation’s public lands — whether they are iconic national treasures or local parks — should mirror the greatness of America, embody the spirit of our people, and celebrate our historical and cultural achievements. We absolutely need to engage diverse communities in order to ensure that all Americans can feel a sense of ownership and pride in their contribution to our nation’s public lands for generations to come.
Roberto Morales, Nature for All Coalition Chair.