Leadership Academy Spotlight: Maricela Rosales


How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?

I found out about the SGMF Leadership Academy when I first began volunteering with Latino Outdoors in Los Angeles. I went to a mixer in Pasadena and met some amazing folks from SGMF who were doing great things for the San Gabriel National Monument and furthering the expansion of the National Monument. I was inspired to apply to learn more about community engagement and seeking better recreation and access for underserved communities in Los Angeles.

What is your project?

The Abilities Project is a civic outdoor education access project though the Leadership Academy — connecting individuals with disabilities to green and open spaces and providing an interactive and educational hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. Disabled people will learn about the history, wildlife, environmental justice, and the importance of civic engagement in protecting access to the San Gabriel Mountain National Monument for their community and beyond.

The first event will take place during the month of October during Disability Awareness Month. October is also the same month that President Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. I wanted to make this first event important and memorable. There’s still as lot of work to be done.

The Abilities Project’s long term goal is to develop and launch a website and app to help Disabled People connect to green and open spaces in the city or outdoors and to connect to programs and organizations that provide resources and services. The app will create a platform for Disabled People, families, service workers/providers, and transform the way communities come together and advocate for access and recreation through technology.

What’s the best thing you learned?

While in the Leadership Academy, I learned many things. I can’t really pin point the best thing I learned because every class was different and in my opinion very important. I highly recommend applying to the SGMF Leadership Academy. It will change your life.

What surprised you about the program or your work on the project?

I was surprised about how much I had to learn about community engagement, fundraising, and storytelling. It made an impact on my life in a short amount of time. It helped nurture a passion of mine that was kept in my head for such a long time. And now I am slowly but surely working on making it a reality.

Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.

Being in the great outdoors is a way to connect and heal with oneself. To breathe in fresh air. To get lost in the sounds, smells, vibrations mother nature gives. For me it’s about hitting the trail or rock climbing. It’s about protecting the wildlife that call the great outdoors their home. I find peace when I enter this space and I want others to experience it in their own way.

What’s your favorite way to spend your day in the San Gabriel Mountains?

I have so much to learn about the National Monument and its different terrain. I will say my favorite is rock climbing at Horse Flats Campground. I just started trial running again and I am looking forward to running on trails in the San Gabriel Mountains.

What has post-academy life been like?

It has been exciting and exceptionally busy! Doors are opening for the right reasons. I’ve got a world to change and it’s very humbling and exciting process! My role in Latino Outdoors is changing and there’s room for opportunity if anyone in the Los Angeles area is interested. I recently was picked to be a part of the SHIFTjh Emerging Leaders Program and slowly making moves for the Abilities Project. While at the 2017 Summer Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, UT, I marched on behalf of protecting public lands. I support and help in any way I can to provide volunteer time for organizations like Access Fund, Wilderness Society, and SGMF who are doing great work to get the word out to their communities on how important our National Monuments are to all of us. I hope that more people join the movement and become lifelong constituents. Being pulled in many directions is hard, but at the same time I’m hoping that the long hours and dedication pays off.

Monument Defense Event Recap

IMG_2391What a great event today, with supporters rallying to protect the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, along with other public lands being threatened by the Trump administration.

Daniel Rossman (The Wilderness Society, SGMF) served as emcee for the event, and speakers included Congressmember Judy Chu, Congressmember Adam Schiff, Congressmember Jimmy Gomez, Congressmember Brad Sherman, El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, Scott Ammons (REI), and San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy graduate Karen Gutierrez.

“These fights are not won overnight,” said Congressmember Jimmy Gomez of the hard work to get the national monument designated. “But now President Trump wants to roll back that designation. And it is a shame because this area is home to so much wildlife, to waterfalls to natural habitat that people get to enjoy. And this hard-fought fight that you all won, we have to continue it. We have make sure that President Trump and his administration know that there is no lack of public involvement in this area. That you guys had those meetings time and time again. We had those champions of this area making sure that everyone’s voice was heard….”

“We are here because our beloved San Gabriel Mountains national monument is being threatened,” said Congressmember Judy Chu, who pointed to the benefits of having national monument status, as well as the progress that’s been made since its designation in 2014. “Now Angelenos, especially minorities, will have more opportunities to experience this wonderful piece of nature. It’s easier to get to the mountains, rivers, and forests, with safer trails and more signs in more languages so everybody can benefit from this monument.”

Congressmember Adam Schiff stressed that “we need bipartisan support in Congress to protect this area even more,” adding “the urgency now is protection of our monuments, of our open space.”

“This is the direction in which must move — forward, not backward, protecting our public lands not exploiting them,” said Schiff. “Being good stewards of nature, not putting it at further risk…. This is a proud legacy of so many presidents. But like so many other actions, this current president would tear down what others have done, offering nothing constructive in its place. But we are gathered here in these numbers to say, ‘This, like everything else, we will resist.’ ”

San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy graduate Karen Gutierrez shared her experience growing up in a park-poor community, adding that the national monument provides “the best option to experience fresh air, flowing rivers, and open spaces all in one area.”

“We cannot afford to lose the San Gabriel Mountains national monument,” she said. “Rather, we need to expand it and improve access… so that park-poor communities like my own can enjoy all the health and recreational benefits it has to offer.”

More Photos:

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Coverage of the event:

ABC7 News: Lawmakers fight to keep San Gabriel Mountains a national monument

Los Angeles Daily News: 100 supporters, 4 local members of Congress blast Trump’s review of national monuments

Los Angeles Daily News: Interior Department won’t eliminate national monuments but some may shrink

Patch: Trump May Shrink San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Welcome, Leadership Academy Cohort #12

sgmf leadership 12 cohort orientation
We’re excited to introduce our 12th cohort of our Leadership Academy! For our orientation/kick-off, we went on a trip to the East Fork of the San Gabriel Mountains and met with staff from the office of Senator Kamala Harris staff, as well as the Angeles Forest Supervisor and field rangers.

The new class: Christina Harrington, Joel Glen, Cristina Plemel, Melina Simonds, Casey Blu Flamino, Adrienne, Alejandra Sandoval, Sofia Aleman, Yuhki Fukusumi, Alain Bourgault, Erika Martinez, Michael Gasbarro, Kathy Ramos, Sally Gee, Krystle.

SGMF Leadership Academy Spotlight: Dorothy Wong

sgmf dorothy Argyle DotDorothy Wong is a graduate of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy and was recently elected to the Altadena Town Council.

How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?

I found out about the Leadership Academy from BikeSGV and was eager to be a part of protecting our mountains while also having the opportunity to learn more about civic engagement and the opportunity to create projects for the betterment of the community.

What was your project?

To create an educational bike tour for young people to learn about the precious resource of water and the watershed, while also learning communication art skills to tell the story of their journey along the way and why protecting our lands and waters through the National Monument is vital. This creative content will be a tool shared broadly and especially to our civic leaders to support the need to protect open space. These young people will learn about the environment as well learn skills that may become their future life’s path.

What’s the best thing you learned?

The process in the classroom brought things together, so as a whole I would highly recommend the Leadership Academy to anyone who is looking for their next pathway.

What surprised you about the program or your work on the project?

It was great to see the coalition of organizations we were able to learn from, and to see how working together was bigger and better for the benefit of the movement. Supportive together, it’s strength.

Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.

Being in nature is so calming, so fresh and is really bigger than me when I’m there. Its vastness can be an adventure. Getting away from the city noise. The great outdoors is beautiful and still so full of life. It works in harmony and balance when we let it be.

What’s your favorite way to spend your day in the San Gabriel Mountains?

It’s hard to say. I love walking with my dogs in the Arroyo Seco or Eaton Canyon while I test my skills riding mountain bikes up and down the trails in my home of Altadena. Paved ways by bike with friends we love to push ourselves climbing up and over the mountain roads and river paths as far at Mt Baldy Ski Lifts and sometimes all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

What has post-academy life been like?

The timing was so right with our national political leadership challenging our national monuments it was time to stand up and protect them. I felt more confident and knowledgable and ready to make change. A big moment was attending the Transportation Equity Summit hosted by Transform and Cal Bike in Sacramento, advocating and lobbying for support Transportation Equity themed Assembly Bills and seeing how it all worked by using my advocacy skills learned though the Academy. I was so excited from the momentum to make a difference, I took the opportunity to do so in my community and ran for Altadena Town Council — and much on the grounds of protecting open space and the environment. People rallied in support and I got out there to meet and speak to my neighbors about their concerns. I worked all the way up to the last minutes of the election and as a result got the highest votes!

Working together is what it’s all about, so I’ve been taking on opportunities to outreach provided by and in support of the SGMF coalition. Driven by my love of competition, I entered the National Monument Public Comment “Postcard Challenge” and reached out at events and in my community, as well as working alongside SGMF Leadership Academy alumni at events such as the REI Garage Sale to ask the public to be a voice and sign the postcards asking our Federal leaders to protect our lands and waters via National Monument designation. We help people understand why we need to protect more of it. I also recently attended Climate Day LA leadership conference. It was amazing to be a part of the enthusiasm to work on climate change issues and become leaders in reducing our impact on the planet. It all works together and what we do affects all on our planet… the great outdoors!

MORE: Feature in the Altadena Library newsletter

News: St. Francis Dam Memorial Bill Passed in the House

st francis damBig news from DC: The House gave the thumbs-up to legislation, introduced by Representative Steve Knight, to create a memorial for the St. Francis Dam Disaster.

“This is great news for the community,” said Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel of SGMF member organization the Community Hiking Club. “The entire riparian area of 440 acres will be protected as part of the monument and memorial. This riparian area supports Unarmored Three Spine Stickleback (UTS) as well as the red-legged frogs, our new state amphibian. San Francisquito Creek that runs through the Dam site is one of the largest habitats in the state for these endangered creatures. It’s a great feeling to be able to protect endangered species and to honor the victims of the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928.”

Volunteer Report: Liliana Griego on Our June 2017 Trip to DC

liliana dc 1Liliana Griego is a graduate of the San Gabriel Mountain Forever Leadership Academy and a volunteer for SGMF who joined a group of coalition members on a trip to Washington, D.C. to advocate for protection of our national monuments. Below, she reflects on the experience.

What Surprised Me

I was shocked to learn about the network of tunnels and the subway system found under the Capitol that connects the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings. Unfortunately, only representatives are allowed to take the subway, but we did utilize the tunnels every time we traveled from one representative’s office to another. After visiting a few offices and speaking to different staff members, I also learned that they actually like when local representatives visit them and they strongly encourage their constituents to call if they have opinions on certain matters. A staff member shared a story with me about their office receiving so many calls on one particular issue that they couldn’t get any work done because the phones wouldn’t stop ringing. It was a fast way to bring attention to the issue and they felt pressure to resolve it as quickly of possible. This story showed me that our voices can be heard if we just make them loud enough.

What We Talked About

When I arrived in D.C., a weeklong event was being held by the Monuments for All campaign. The week was designated for two things — to draw attention to the national monuments that are currently being reviewed and to find ways to bring diversity and inclusion to those monuments. Local representative from different monuments were brought together to share their connection with their particular monument. Other Californians accompanied me, and we shared our stories with different congressional offices. We requested they make their voice heard on the floor, submit letters of opposition to any changes on the national monuments, and support any legislation that would benefit Californian monuments.

I was also given the opportunity to speak on a panel that brought different perspectives on how national monuments benefit different communities. Speakers addressed how beneficial monuments can be in terms of archeological preservation, growth of the local economy, and providing opportunities for urban youth to experience nature for the first time.

What I’m Still Thinking About

After returning from D.C., I felt energized, optimistic, and determined to keep the momentum going. After speaking to many representatives of the LA region, it was reassuring to hear that most of the offices are in support of our national monuments and they are fighting the good fight alongside us. I believe now the greater push is to continue engaging our communities and educating them on the importance of our national monuments. I now feel inspired to spread the word to my community and let them know that our representatives want and need to hear from us. Politicians and the people who work for them are in fact just people, and sharing your story with them can be impactful. Filling out those postcards actually does matter, making those phone calls can make a difference, and uniting together can bring change.

The Public Speaks: Why We Need the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Below, a small sampling of the thousands of comments we have collected in support of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. (Our letter.)

sgmf insta monument comment 1

“The San Gabriel Mountains are a unique place ecologically, historically and culturally. Allowing them to exist unprotected in the current political climate we’re living in would be irresponsible and irreverent to all of us who cherish this land. Thank you for your efforts in protecting what we need and love.” – Christina

“From our home in Wrightwood, CA, we are awed by the beauty of these mountains every day… We need all the resources possible to keep it for future generations and to maintain it for many hikers who traverse our Pacific Coast Trail every year from Mexico to Canada. If you could only see Catalina Island and Azusa Canyon framed be two 10,000 foot mountains, you would understand the imperative of preserving this precious, precious land.” – Kenneth

“I am on the north side of the San Gabriels, and take children up into the Forest to teach them about nature. This is in my back yard. The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument needs to be enlarged, not reduced.” – Sandra

“An attack on one national monument is an attack on all. Please maintain the status of ALL national monuments across the country, including the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Protected public lands are critical for the health and future of our country.” – Amy

“I live in Alhambra and these mountains are my backyard. Please do not destroy this monument because of partisanship or hate. There is no logical reason to abandon this monument, and doing so would not benefit the American people in any way.” – Christopher

“Every time we look up or drive by on the local freeway we are moved by this natural beauty. We can park below and hike up amongst beautiful trees, gorgeous vistas, and streams with occasional waterfalls. The wildlife up here also thrives in this expansive mountain range. Please protect this incredible area that surrounds so many communities and is available to anyone for access and a healthy climb.” – Gabriela

“It amazes me how nationally obscure the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles Crest Highway are nationally. They deserve far more publicity than they get. The first time I drove the length of the Highway I was completely, utterly blown away; it was some of the most visually striking landscape I’ve ever seen. And the road just goes on and on and on. It truly is an otherworldly, sacred tract, and every effort should be made to protect it.” – Jonathan

“This Monument enjoys wide support from people of all walks of life and most diverse ethnic background. They came to all public planning meetings and left many comments of their support. For many who will never get to the High Sierra, the Gabriel Mountains National Monument are the next best thing. The San Gabriel National Monument gets as many visitors as Yosemite and is a jewel to Angelenos. It it a great place to have a wilderness experience only one hour or less from LA. Keep your hands off the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. It took many years and a lot of hard work to make it happen.” – Rick

“I love the San Gabriels, the steepest mountains in southern California. They need all the protection and care that government can provide, as so many other people love them, too.” -Pat

“I hike in these mountains every week. I urge you to preserve these mountains for those of us who cherish this opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in such a developed region.” – Michelle

“The San Gabriel National Monument is a treasure, and treasures are rich, and this wealth of nature is not to be wasted and lost.” – Maria

“Our national monuments and public lands and waters help define who we are as a nation by telling the story of our historical, cultural and natural heritage. I am extremely disappointed that President Trump has signed an executive order that attempts to undermine our national monuments. Attempts to roll back protections for national monuments would be both illegal and terribly misguided. I strongly urge you to oppose any efforts to eliminate or shrink our national monuments. I am firmly opposed to any effort to revoke or diminish protections for National Monuments and I urge you to support our public lands and waters and recommend that our current national monuments remain protected. I urge you to stand up for our nation’s national monuments and to protect, preserve, and keep them as they are, for all Americans to enjoy.” – Chanda

“We need to protect what little natural environmental space we have, for future generations.” – Lisa

“In my 40 years of taking children into the mountains to teach them stewardship and environmental responsibility, it’s been the Mountains that changed their lives, not the books, people or buildings!” – Lark

“I’ve lived in the city all my life, but the San Gabriel Mountains showed me that Los Angeles was part of something much bigger. I know so many people in the Los Angeles area and beyond who love these mountains. We need the national monument designation to pass this national treasure on to the next generation.” – Kelly

Sign our letter and submit your own comments before the July 10 deadline! 

News: San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act Introduced

Great news: Congresswoman Judy Chu has introduced the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act today. The legislation, cosponsored by Congressman Adam Schiff, will protect 31,069 acres of wilderness — including two new areas, the Yerba Buena and Condor Peak Wilderness — and will also designate 45.3 miles of wild rivers.

Here’s a breakdown of what is being proposed.

Condor Peak PWACondor Peak Wilderness

Protection: 8,417 acres of public lands in the Lower and Upper Big Tujunga Watersheds. The unit rises abruptly from 1,800 feet on its southern flanks to more than 6,000 feet at its northern boundary near Mt. Gleason.

Benefits: It is hoped that the California Condor will return to this area — part of its historic habitat.

Yerba Buena Wilderness

Protection: 6,774 acres

Benefits: It’s one of the most spectacular undeveloped landscapes in the San Gabriel MountainsThis area offers opportunities for solitude in a natural setting and a variety of recreational experiences.

San Gabriel Wilderness Additions

Protection: 2,027 acres to be added to the existing San Gabriel Wilderness Areas

Benefits: Area has dramatically rising slopes and a variety of flora and fauna. The San Gabriel Wilderness Additions encompasses a portion of the San Gabriel River watershed, which is an important source of clean drinking water.

Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions

Protection: 13,851 acres to the established Sheep Mountain Wilderness. The Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions are contiguous with the existing wilderness and add important landscapes to the wilderness area’s northwest and southwest/southern flanks. These additions include several tributary canyons of the San Gabriel River, a portion of the San Gabriel Mountains crest between Mt. Baden Powell and Mt. Hawkins.

Benefits: The area is home to wildlife including its namesake Nelson Bighorn Sheep.

East, West and North Forks of the San Gabriel River

Protection:  25.3 miles in the forest’s largest watershed

Benefits: It’s the source of clean drinking water for Los Angeles County. All three forks support rare native fish populations. Easily accessible segments of the East Fork and North Fork provide outstanding family recreation opportunities, including picnicking, wading, and camping. The upper West Fork is the route of the Gabrieleno National Recreation Trail and the upper East Fork offers unique backcountry hiking, backpacking, and wild trout fishing.

Little Rock Creek

Protection: 20.2 miles

Location: Secluded and crystal-clear northern creek, which flows from the San Gabriel Mountains high country to the Mojave Desert.