LOS ANGELES (CNS) - New oil, gas and mineral exploration and development will be prohibited in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument under a newly released management plan governing the largest wilderness area in Los Angeles County.
The U.S. Forest Service plan prioritizes environmental protection over economic development and recreational access, limiting overnight camping along certain popular rivers and streams because of its ecological toll, the Los Angeles Times reported. The plan comes four years after President Barack Obama established the monument and amid a Trump administration push to increase industrial use of public lands and waters nationwide.
Jeffrey Vail, supervisor of the monument and the Angeles National Forest, told The Times that strong local support shaped the new policies.
``The credit really belongs to the people of Los Angeles and interest groups ... that have given so much time and effort to protect these unique and significant wildlands,'' he said. ``Beyond that, there just aren't any significant oil, gas, mineral or timber aspects to this monument."
Released two months behind schedule, the document is scant on specifics for the 346,000 acres of alpine peaks, lush canyon lands and rivers that lure 4 million visitors annually.
It deems exploration and development of oil, gas and mineral resources and use of motorized vehicles for commercial purposes as ``unsuitable'' in the monument, although companies and individuals with existing mining claims will be unaffected.
The document also bans camping along the East and North forks of the San Gabriel River and Aliso Creek Canyon -- tourist hot spots designated as ``critical biological land use zones'' for rare and endangered species.
The plan focuses attention on one of the most rancorous arguments in the San Gabriels: the damage caused by gold mining in its streams. Vail said gold extraction has ``dire consequences for aquatic species.''
Monument lands and waterways are not open to prospecting or any other mining operation, including panning for gold. But until now, enforcement has been lax because the rule is based on a 1928 policy that does not include penalties, The Times reported.
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