A new push to preserve more of the San Gabriel Mountains
The river ripples cold around his waders as Bill Reeves casts a dry fly onto a pool edged with alders on the bottom of a canyon deep in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Reeves, 69, who first fished this stretch of the San Gabriel River's west fork with his father more than half a century ago, was in his element — scanning the eddies for rising wild trout in a wilderness that resurrected childhood memories.
"I'd be happy if this place stayed just the way it is," the stout conservationist said. "But with 10 million people living within an hour's drive, these mountains definitely need more protection."
Reeves is a member of San Gabriel Mountains Forever, a campaign that is pushing Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) to fashion a bill that would shield a larger portion of the 655,000-acre range and its free-flowing rivers from pollution and population woes with the strongest federal protections available.
The goal is to add 30,000 acres to three existing wilderness areas and have 44 miles of San Antonio Creek, the middle fork of Lytle Creek and portions of the San Gabriel River's east, west and north forks protected under the national Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which would prohibit new damming.
Today, only a 7-mile stretch of Piru Creek, in the northern San Gabriel Mountains, is designated as wild and scenic.
Conservationists fear that time is running out. Encroachment from foothill subdivisions in the San Gabriel Valley and Lancaster, cuts to the U.S. Forest Service budget, arson fires and millions of annual visitors are eroding the qualities that make the mountains special, they say.
"Our aim with this proposal is to protect the one-third of the Angeles National Forest that is still unspoiled open space," said John Monsen, regional representative of the Sierra Club, one of several environmental groups in the campaign, including the Wilderness Society and Friends of the River. "The trick is to get it introduced in time for this Congress to vote on it. If it is delayed another year, there is no telling what will happen."
Dreier, whose district includes much of the range, is seeking input and support for the plan from the myriad cities, environmental and recreational organizations, fire departments, flood control agencies and water districts laying claims on the watershed, which provides Los Angeles County with 70% of its open space and roughly 35% of its water.
--Louis Sahagun in the San Gabriel Mountains
Photo: Hikers follow a trail near the middle fork of Lytle Creek in the
Cucamonga Wilderness. "Our aim with this proposal is to protect the
one-third of the Angeles National Forest that is still unspoiled open
space," said John Monsen, regional representative of the Sierra Club.
"The trick is to get it introduced in time for this Congress to vote on
it. If it is delayed another year, there is no telling what will
happen." (Brian van der Brug /