WASHINGTON, DC, October 21, 2014 (ENS) – President Barack Obama has used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish 540 square miles of national forest land in the San Gabriel Mountains of southern California as a national monument, permanently protecting the popular outdoor recreation destination.

With this designation, President Obama has now protected more than 260 million acres of land and water, nearly three times more than any other President since the Antiquities Act became law in 1906.

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Aerial photograph of the San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, California. This view to the southwest includes parts of the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. (Photo by Michael Rymer)

The peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains frame the Los Angeles skyline and offer hundreds of miles of hiking, mountain biking, motorized, and equestrian trails as well as campgrounds to the area’s diverse residents. In addition to providing drinking water, the San Gabriels’ rivers support rare populations of native fish, while the vegetation found in the monument supports native wildlife and insect species, including pollinators important to farmers.

This monument designation builds on more than a decade of public support from business, tourism, environmental justice, conservation, academic and cultural preservation communities and on the leadership from members of Congress.

More than 15 million people live within 90 minutes of the San Gabriel Mountains, which provides 70 percent of the open space for Angeleños and 30 percent of their drinking water.

For many residents of Los Angeles County – one of the most disadvantaged counties in the country when it comes to access to parks and open space for minorities and children – the San Gabriel Mountains provide the only available large-scale open space.

The monument designation will create new opportunities for the Forest Service and local communities to work together to increase access and enhance outdoor opportunities. Studies have shown that increasing recreational access to public lands translates to higher levels of youth activity and lower youth obesity rates.

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West Fork National Bikeway in the San Gabriel Mountains (Photo by Steve Evans / San Gabriel Mountains Forever)

Building on the monument designation, charitable donors are announcing commitments to help jump-start public involvement and restoration of high-priority projects in Los Angeles County and the new San Gabriel National Monument.

The National Forest Foundation announced a donation of $3 million for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Fund to respond to community priorities and support restoration and stewardship of the new national monument.

In addition, the Hewlett, Wyss, Packard, and California Community foundations, the California Endowment, and the Resources Legacy Fund are working to establish a $500,000 San Gabriel Partnership Fund to support recreation and habitat improvement projects in the monument and surrounding communities.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Forest Service are investing more than a million dollars in additional education staff and maintenance work on the monument’s trails and picnic areas.

The site contains high-quality wilderness areas, habitat for many endangered and sensitive plants and animals including the Nelson’s Bighorn sheep, California condor, mountain lion, spotted owl and the mountain yellow-legged frog. It also defends against climate change, retaining polluting geenhouse gases from the air.

More than 600 archeologically and culturally significant sites are found within the new monument, such as the Aliso-Arrastre Special Interest Area, which features rock art and cupules that exemplify more than 8,000 years of Native American history.

The new monument contains the Mt. Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble discovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way and Albert Michelson provided the first modern measurement of the speed of light.

The new monument area overlays about half of the Angeles National Forest, which hosts more than four million visits each year. Based on 2012 data, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that the Angeles National Forest alone contributes more than $39 million to the local economy each year.

Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents to protect unique natural and historic features in America, including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Alaska’s Admiralty Island National Monument.

President Obama has previously used his authority under the Antiquities Act to create or expand 12 other National Monuments across the country, including the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean last month – the largest marine reserve in the world that is completely off limits to commercial resource extraction.

All of these efforts support an annual outdoor economy that includes approximately nine million jobs and $1 trillion in economic activity, according to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

A recent study by the independent and nonpartisan research group, Headwaters Economics analyzing the impacts of over a dozen monuments found that, without exception, local economies grew following the monument’s designation.

The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument will be managed by the U.S. Forest Service and will be the eighth national monument under Forest Service management.

There are more than 100 national monuments across the country managed by the Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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