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Religious group pushes to protect San Gabriel Mountains

October 30, 2009 |  6:30 pm

An activist religious group has joined the effort to designate the San Gabriel Mountains as a national recreational area eligible for additional federal resources including law enforcement personnel, interpretive signs and hiking trails.

The group, Progressive Christians Uniting, is touting the proposal to congregants of dozens of San Gabriel Valley churches near the 650,000-acre range that constitutes about 70% of Los Angeles County's open space.

"We are helping to bring the moral compassion of people of faith to bear on an urgent public issue," said Rev. Peter Laarman, executive director of the Los Angeles-based group. "This is an ambitious effort. It involves public health, an important natural resource and millions of people who live near it. We want to be on board."

The designation would be made by the National Park Service, which is conducting an ongoing "special resource study" of the San Gabriels and the San Gabriel Watershed. The study includes three draft alternatives for new collaborative approaches to managing the range currently run by the U.S. Forest Service for purposes other than recreation.

A final recommendation could come in 2011. In the meantime, a coalition led by conservation groups and community organizations plans to present its "San Gabriel Mountains Forever" campaign to as many churches as possible.

"Religion and stewardship connect gracefully," said Sierra Club spokesman John Monsen.

Pastor Arthur Cribbs of San Marino Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, said his congregation recently forwarded a letter of support for the proposal to U.S. Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), whose district includes a large portion of the San Gabriels.

"We are blessed to have such a natural resource," Cribbs said. "It is a place where we can step out of our everyday business in the metropolis of greater Los Angeles and find quietude and stillness, strength and magic."

-- Louis Sahagun

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