Editorial: Why are fish missing from new San Gabriel National Monument Plan?

 

Beautiful color on this trout, which was released, unharmed, back to the water. (Jim Burns)

Beautiful color on this trout, which was released, unharmed, back to the water. (Jim Burns)

By John Tobin

Guest Contributor

 

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 jseastrand@fs.fed.us, 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.

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West Fork S.O.S.: Comment period extended to Nov. 1, 2016

On a whim, I visited the West Fork very recently. The sun was hot in the mid-morning sky; a group of local teens pulled up alongside the parked mighty Prius and one asked me if I ‘biked much?” I said no, which is true, because I almost never take that rickety garage-sale contraption out of my garage, unless it’s to come here.

The rust on the chain tells the tale and could have answered the lad’s question before I ever did.

In the few hours I spent in the catch/release section, above the second bridge, two marvelous items happened: I spotted a pair of young foxes, and I caught a small trout on a size 16 hi-viz Parachute Adams after about 10 minutes casting to a shadowy hole.

Upon my return, I told my incredulous son I’d hooked up. I beamed, even as he questioned, “But, isn’t that pretty bad? Didn’t we used to hook up at least a dozen times up there.”

Yes, Will, yes, we did.

And that’s why I hope everyone who reads this will click this link and let the powers that be at the Angeles National Forest know your thoughts, for ANF is seeking public comments on a “Need to Change” analysis for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Trout Unlimited has launched a campaign to get fishers to comment before the comment period ends July 27.

Why is there a “need to change” recreational policies on the West Fork?  As the advocacy website Friends of the River explains the 44 miles of stream within the national monument are designated a “wild & scenic river.”

“The West, North and East Forks .. drain the largest watershed in the mountain range and provide thirsty downstream residents with clean drinking water. The West Fork National Scenic Bikeway Trail provides easy access to one of the few catch and release trout streams (bold added) in the region, while the upper West Fork is traversed by the Gabrieleno National Recreation Trail. The East Fork provides trail access to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.”

As it stands, when you come upon the survey box at the beginning of the West Fork’s c/r area, it makes even the most obstinately optimistic fishers scratch their heads. I mean what kind of comment does a thinking person leave?

“Dear Ranger,

Fishing has plummeted on this wild & scenic river to levels probably never seen before. Help.

Sincerely,

A very concerned citizen and angler”

I’m not sure if the well-intentioned West Fork San Gabriel River Conservancy is still functioning, but much of its website dates to early 2014.

Anyway, to bone up on the problems this area faces from our 4 million brethren, there’s a load of information and reporting on the Internet, which means at least some of it is actually true.

The best way to refresh your political ire is to visit, yourself, put your $5-a-day Adventure Pass on your dashboard, bring your $47.01 valid fishing license, a few flies and a 2 weight. Grease up the chain on your aging bike, ride past the swimmers to the second bridge, and angle. This area is our area, and it is in desperate need of attention. At least, that’s what I’m writing to ANF.

See you on the river, Jim Burns