LOS ANGELES - Sen. Alex Padilla and Rep. Judy Chu announced an effort Monday to expand the boundaries of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in an effort to protect and preserve nearly 110,000 acres.
Speaking at a news conference, Padilla urged Biden to take advantage of one of the "best opportunities before him to protect one of our nation's greatest environmental treasures, and expand outdoor opportunities for millions of Angelenos."
He said the expansion would also mark "tremendous progress to achieving our 30-30 goals both at the federal level and at the state level to better protect 30% of our lands, 30% of our waterways."
The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument was created in 2014 by President Barack Obama, covering roughly 346,000 acres. The proposed expansion would be an almost 33% increase in the monument's size, stretching it generally to the southwest and closer to communities such as Sierra Madre, Tujunga and Altadena.
Padilla and Chu both said the expansion would help preserve a pristine mountain region while bolstering available park space for residents.
"Los Angeles is amongst the most park-poor regions of the country, despite the natural treasures right here in our backyard," Chu said. "Under- served communities without access to green spaces miss out on the proven natural and physical health benefits associated with recreation and the outdoors."
In a letter to Biden requesting the expansion, Padilla and Chu noted that more than 15 million people live within a 90-minute drive of the San Gabriel Mountains, and expanding the monument is critical to protecting the open space.
"These protections would increase public lands access and protect clean drinking water supplies for Los Angeles County, as well as enhance conservation of the area's rich cultural resources, unique geological features, critical wildlife habitat, and threatened and endangered wildlife," according to the letter.
They also noted the move would bolder the Biden Administration's "America the Beautiful initiative, which is intended to address the three interlocking crises of nature loss, climate change, and inequitable access to the outdoors."
Environmental advocates quickly endorsed the proposed monument expansion.
"As a habitat for countless plants and wildlife, expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is critical to preserving biodiversity in the face of a changing climate. This is an opportunity to further preserve one third of Los Angeles County's clean drinking water and create additional recreational opportunities for underserved communities," Mike Young, political and organizing director of California Environmental Voters, said in a statement. "We applaud the leadership of Senator Padilla and Representative Chu and call on the Biden Administration to protect our biodiversity, water, and green spaces."
Leah Donahey, senior federal advocacy campaigns director for the League of Conservation Voters, added, "The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument expansion will increase access to nature in one of the most dense population centers in the country while preserving plants and habitats for wildlife and conserving a critical source of water in the West. LCV looks forward to working with local partners and the Biden-Harris administration to protect this special place now and for future generations."