Obama to designate Calif. mountain range a national monument

President Obama will designate a large chunk of the San Gabriel Mountains in California as a national monument, the White House said on Wednesday.

The roughly 346,000 acres of the U.S. forestland are located northeast of Los Angeles and will be the 13th designation from Obama during his presidency.

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He will announce the new monument during a ceremony on Friday in Los Angeles County at the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park.

The new protections will preserve the land permanently, which provides 30 percent of the drinking water for the some 15 million people living around the mountains.

Hispanic organizations and green groups have urged the White House for more than a decade to declare the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument, given the amount of open space and water it provides to surrounding residents.

The White House said Los Angeles County is one of the most disadvantaged when it comes to park access and open spaces for minorities.

“This designation, which will protect the source of 70 percent of L.A. County’s open space and more than one-third of its drinking water, is an important conservation milestone for our country," said Mike Matz, director of public lands with Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Not only is the President creating the second-largest land monument of his administration, but in so doing, he is contributing to the health and well-being of generations of children who look to the nearby San Gabriel Mountains for clean air and water, and for the opportunity to get outside and explore and enjoy a wild place that is just beyond their backyards," Matz added.

The protections will span from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino County. The monument will not touch western regions of San Bernardino County, however, due to opposition from officials.

A lack of funding has typically plagued the mountains which include the Angeles National Forest. The forest is one of the busiest in the country with more than 3.5 million visitors each year.

The new monument declaration will help fund and improve trail signs, restrooms, and trash cans, according to the White House.