Beautiful color on this trout, which was released, unharmed, back to the water. (Jim Burns)
By John Tobin
Less than an hour’s drive from here, up in those dry and dusty San Gabriel Mountains, are three rare and precious wild trout streams, the West, North and East forks of the San Gabriel River.
Under arbors of alder, sycamore and oak, they run clear and cold all year long, despite drought, and harbor wild rainbow trout. Some of the rainbows are direct descendants of steelhead trout, which went to and from the sea for eons before the dams were built.
The streams are also home to some threatened and endangered creatures, including the Santa Ana speckled dace, that exists only in the Los Angeles basin. These flows are always under pressure, and not just from the lack of water. They frequently suffer from overuse by crowds of visitors, some of whom trash them and others who damage them with illegal gold mining and with what the forest service calls “recreational dam building.”
The forest service has long been hard pressed to protect them: not enough money, and not enough staff.
The many people who know and love these streams were naturally excited when President Obama designated the National Monument in the fall of 2014, anticipating that plans and resources would be developed to better protect these waters. And so the fishers, the hikers and the mountain bikers, together with professional fishery experts, weighed in during the requisite public comment period to tell the forest service what they thought should be done for these streams in the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Plan.
At the end of that process, the forest service produced a summary of the comments and an outline of the issues and concerns they determined should be the focus of the plan. Sadly, the outline for their management plan does not include any focus on these streams.
Consequently, in accordance with the forest service’s planning policies, all of the stream-specific comments and recommendations that were submitted by the public were ignored. They will not have an influence on the management plan for the national monument.
If this concerns you, let the forest service know:
Contact Justin Seastrand, Environmental Coordinator, Angeles National Forest, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Superintendent Jeffrey Vail, at JVail@fs.fed.us.
Don’t have to wait for the next public comment period later this winter or spring, when part of the environmental assessment will be published. It may be too late by then.
John Tobin is the conservation chair for the Pasadena Casting Club.