Go, Grads! 11th Leadership Academy Graduation

Another great graduation for the Leadership Academy. The 11th cohort was celebrated with a reception at the Jeff Seymour Family Center in El Monte. The new graduates: Rebecca Contreras, Edward Duong, Karen Gutierrez, Liliana Griego, Araceli Hernandez, Angela Miramontes, Jasmine Mowgood, Art Moy, Jeanette Ramirez, Daniel Ramli, Payton Robinson, Maricela Rosales, Brian Velez, Dorothy Wong. This brings us to a total of 107 graduates!

Speakers at the ceremony, including keynote speaker Enrique Robles of Congresswoman Judy Chu’s office, urged grads to continue to work to make sure everyone has equal access to nature, with more transit-to-trails and efforts to educate the public about the value of public lands and the need to protect our national monument from federal threats.

We also heard from Leadership Academy graduate Liliana Griego about how she learned about community challenges and became empowered to make changes and take action. “We’re not going to go down without a fight!”

Bryan Matsumoto, a graduate from the previous cohort who remains involved as a volunteer, offered a great endorsement of SGMF: “This is a group that is really making stuff happen.”

Organization Spotlight: BikeSGV

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Organization Name


Staff members who work with SGMF

Andrew Yip, Program Coordinator; Wes Reutimann, Project Director

What does your organization do — and how does it relate to SGMF?

Our mission is to support a more bicycle-, pedestrian- and transit-friendly San Gabriel Valley. This focus is driven by our founders and staff’s shared passion for creating more sustainable, healthy, and resilient communities. Given BikeSGV’s geographic and professional focus, it was an easy decision to become an active member of San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition — to share our expertise in the realm of active transportation and to support it via our local roots (almost all of our staff were born, raised, still live and have family in the San Gabriel Valley).

How do you make life better for Angelenos?

BikeSGV’s work helps lower barriers to leading more active lifestyles by driving less and integrating physical activity into one’s everyday life. We do so by working with communities to improve the safety of streets for all modes of transportation and providing direct educational and encouragement services, such as free City Cycling, Basic Bike Repair, and Learn-to-Bike classes to empower people of all ages and abilities to ride a bike for transportation, recreation, and fun!

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work and what would make things easier?

The biggest challenge working in the San Gabriel Valley is the sheer number of small communities and municipalities that are contained within the region. Each has distinct politics, city staff, and community makeup, which is constantly shifting. Since residents of the region regularly cross multiple communities in the course of their everyday lives, coordination and cooperation among communities is critical if the Valley is to ever develop a safe, comfortable and convenient regional network of biking, walking and transit infrastructure. One thing that might help facilitate this process would be if the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments or a similar entity would create bike and pedestrian coordinator positions to foster more collaboration between neighboring communities.

Best thing you’ve done as a member of SGMF?

This is a tough one, but one of SGMF projects BikeSGV is most proud of supporting is the development of a new generation of environmental stewards and champions via the Leadership Academy. In addition to having many of our volunteers and most of our staff graduate through the program, we have successfully recruited many other young residents of the San Gabriel Valley to the program.

Think ahead ten years in the future: What will you be proud of your organization for accomplishing?

We’re hopeful one of our legacy projects will be the development of a San Gabriel Valley Regional Greenway Network along the over 100 miles of County storm channels, washes and creeks that feed into the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo watershed. The region is incredibly fortunate to have existing rights-of-way along the watershed, which can be transformed into safe, off-street biking and walking paths. Over the past five years we’ve made great strides in moving a simple but ambitious staff-selected “Priority Project” into a full-fledged campaign with broad community and City support; in 2015 the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments officially included the creation of a regional greenway system into its strategic plan in 2015, and helped earmark over $231 million in Measure M transportation funding towards greenway development.

More: BikeSGV on Facebook; on Twitter; on Instagram. Plus, check out the cyclists of the SGV on Tumblr.

Action Alert: Stand Up for Our San Gabriel Mountains National Monument!

We need to defend the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

Join us in making some MONUMENTAL noise! Our national monuments — places protected by Presidents of both parties to preserve America’s priceless natural, cultural, and historic heritage — are being attacked.

This month, President Trump signed an executive order to review the national monument status of areas that were designated recently, including our beloved San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. As Los Angeles Supervisor Hilda Solis has stated, “We cannot have decades of hard work signed away with a stroke of a pen.”

The Department of Interior announced they would open up a public comment period to review the status of those monuments designated under the Antiquities Act.

You can help us fighting for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument!


What’s Up with the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument?

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The Origin

President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to sign an executive order on October 10, 2014 that designated the San Gabriel Mountains national monument . San Gabriel Mountains Forever was proud to be there the day Obama signed the order. The celebration came after working for more than 10 years on collaborating with a diverse network of organizations, agencies, businesses, elected officials, and residents to secure protections and improvements to the region. (More the Antiquities Act: The Wilderness SocietyModern Hiker)

The Threat

President Trump signed an executive order on April 26, 2017 to review the national monument designations made since 1996.  (More on the news: San Gabriel Valley Tribune). The Department of Interior announced they would open up a public comment period to review the status of those monuments designated under the Antiquities Act.

The Moves to Protect It

We are defending it. LA County Supervisors approved a motion, introduced by Supervisor Hilda Solis, on May 2, 2017, requesting support and legislation from the Los Angeles County’s congressional delegation to protect the monument status.

“Many community organizations and advocates were instrumental to the appointment of the Mountains as a National Monument. We cannot have decades of hard work signed away with a stroke of a pen.” — Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis

The Move to Expand It

We are also working to expand the monument area and provide Angelenos with a National Recreation Area (NRA). On May 4, 2017, Congresswoman Judy Chu re-introduced the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act; cosponsors of the bill: Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, Congressman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, and Congressman Tony Cardenas.

“The designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument has already brought incredible dividends to our area, increasing access, safety, and trash clean up and creating more trails and services. By expanding the National Monument to include the western portions of the Angeles National Forest and establishing a National Recreation Area (NRA) along the foothills and San Gabriel River corridor, we can take this progress further by completing the vision of a city seamlessly and sustainably connected to its mountains, and mountains that are accessible for all.” – Congresswoman Judy Chu

The Next Steps

You can help us fighting for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument!

  • Sign our letter online — which can also include your own personal message — and we will make sure your comments are delivered. You could also submit comments online on the www.regulations.gov website; enter DOI-2017-0002 in the Search bar, click Search, then click Comment Now to type in your comments.
  • Submit comments by regular mail to: Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. (Looking for inspiration? Here are some notes for what you can include in your comments.)
  • Sign our postcards: We will have postcards to fill out to send to the Interior Department at the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy graduation ceremony Wednesday, May 17 and other future events.
  • Stay tuned! We will keep you posted about our progress and more ways you can help.

In the News: Motion to Protect the San Gabriel National Monument Status

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SGMF members Roberto Morales (far left), Andrew Fung and Amy Wong (far right) with Supervisor Hilda Solis.

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Members of SGMF spoke in support of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument — and all national monuments — today before Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis introduced a motion directing the County’s D.C. Legislative Advocates to take steps to protect the monument status.

“The San Gabriel Mountains are visited by millions of people that come from near and far to enjoy this breathtaking natural gem. The designation of a National Monument was meant to preserve and enhance the natural, historic, and scenic resources of the San Gabriel Mountains and the valley. Many community organizations and advocates were instrumental to the appointment of the Mountains as a National Monument. We cannot have decades of hard work signed away with a stroke of a pen.” – Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis

In the News: Monuments Under Attack

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“National monument designation has meant more community input in the future of the San Gabriel Mountains than ever before. If Trump wants to remove these protections and hand public land over to corporations, he will have to go through Congress where I will fight to protect our environment. I’m going even further and soon reintroducing my legislation to establish the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Recreation Area and expand the existing monument boundaries, increasing the amount of land protected.” – Congresswoman Judy Chu

“An attack on any national monument is an attack on all of them.” –
SGMF member Daniel Rossman in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

“President Obama recognized there are not enough parks and monuments for all people, be they young, old, rich, poor, black, white, Latino, Asian-American and Native American. It is those values this administration is attacking.” – SGMF member Robert Garcia in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

The executive order is an attack on America’s parks, public lands, and natural spaces. Public lands protect our health, support our economy and serve our communities.

Our coalition has worked for more than 10 years, collaborating with a diverse network of organizations, agencies, businesses, elected officials, and residents, to secure protections and improvements to the region — for the benefit of all Angelenos. Our work will continue.

Volunteer Report: Bryan Matsumoto on Our March 2017 Trip to DC

What Surprised Me:
I never imagined my first visit to D.C. would be to lobby our members of Congress! It was powerful being in DC in this Trump era… to stand in the Lincoln Memorial and read the conviction of his words was inspiring — leadership in the face of injustice. Government no longer feels mysterious or distant now that I’ve seen how it works in person; it’s just talking person to person and making a case. It shows me that we the people do have immense power, but only if we flex it en masse.

What We Talked About:
I was there to help tell our reps why we urgently need more Federal resources to connect our park-starved communities to healthy, nature-rich living.

I shared that I grew up in Temple City in view of the San Gabriel Mountains, but no one took me there — like many people today. Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley was an anonymous suburban experience. It was pleasant, but everywhere else felt more special. It wasn’t ’til friends took me hiking years later, to Sturtevant Falls, that I discovered… there’s magic back there! Discovering the mountains changed my life. We have such special places: beautiful waterfalls, crystal blue rivers and shady canyons so close to home, and they provide peace and relief from the urban pressures of LA. In this political climate, they are more vital than ever for us to recharge in nature, and break the cycle of Nature-deficit disorder.

As a park designer, I shared how I’ve worked on the Puente Hills Landfill Park Master Plan, and numerous parks in our park-poor County, and how a proposed National Recreation Area designation would multiply and maximize the County’s investments to bring park space to our residents.

What I’m Still Thinking About:
Connecting people to nature has become my purpose because someone introduced me – and paying it forward is the only way to grow future environmental stewards. “You can’t protect what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t know.”

It’s really motivating working with SGMF because we’re getting real results! Our San Gabriel Mountains have been neglected and underfunded for many years. I had never seen a single ranger out there and now, thanks to the National Monument, we have young, diverse field rangers educating families by the San Gabriel River. We have new, attractive multilingual signs. When people see that we care, they care. We’re pushing and partnering with the Forest Service and our public agencies, to improve public access and outreach, and to innovate. We’re advocating for Transit to Trail shuttles to connect the gaps between our communities and the outdoors. Our Leadership Academy graduates are now rising environmental leaders in our region. It’s an exciting time.

— Bryan Matsumoto

On the Ground Work Update: Guiding The Eagles to Their Nest Project

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Leadership Academy graduate Liliana Camacho Guzman led a workshop at Drew Magnet High School, followed by an Eaton Canyon visit and hike with the students. As part of her project, Guiding The Eagles to Their Nest, she discussed environmental justice, access to green and open spaces, and our work in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and region, with the students.

“It was so rewarding seeing all these students enjoying themselves in their backyard,” said Liliana. “It was their first time wetting their feet (literally) in the San Gabriel Mountains. They can’t wait to go back with their friends and families!”

SGMF on the Road: March 2017 DC Trip

SGMF members Duyen Tran (Wilderness Society), Roberto Morales (Sierra Club), Steve Evans (Friends of the River), Daniel Rossman (Wilderness Society), Dan Smuts (Wilderness Society) traveled to Washington, D.C. with volunteers Bryan Matsumoto, Michelle Okawa, Sandra Catell, and Jeremy Rogers to meet with the offices of our local legislators. Thanks to Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman Adam Schiff, and Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, as well as staff members of Congressman Tony Cardenas, Congressman Steve Knight, Congressman Paul Cook, Congressman Ed Royce, and Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein for taking the time to meet with us! (Photos by Bryan Matsumoto.)