America grew richer in natural heritage today. President Obama is declaring Los Angeles' San Gabriel Mountains a national monument, ensuring this beautiful landscape will remain wild for generations to come. Now the 17 million people living in Greater Los Angeles -- and the many who visit every year -- will always be able to leave behind the crush of urban life and experience the natural wonder of the San Gabriels.
They will be rewarded with quiet stillness and breathtaking views. This landscape is home to mature forests and dramatic waterfalls. Visitors can spot bighorn sheep, spotted owls, and other rare species. And history buffs can learn about the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, Native Americans, rock art, and other cultural sites.
Local residents are eager to have greater access to these places. Los Angeles County is one of the most park-poor urban areas in the nation, and the San Gabriel Valley -- stretching from Pasadena to Pomona -- is especially starved for open space. It has a rich array of ethnically diverse communities, but also some of the highest rates of childhood obesity and diabetes in the state.
Community leaders and medical experts say opportunities for outdoor exercise would help improve people's health. Yet many have found it hard to access the San Gabriels now. The mountains don't have an adequate system of visitors centers, multilingual signs, group campsites, or public transit, and the Forest Service doesn't always have the resources to keep popular trails open.
Declaring the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument will make this natural wonder more accessible. It will welcome people from all walks of life and maintain the mountains' wild character at the same time.
That is why 80 percent of Los Angeles County voters support greater protections.
But declaring the San Gabriels a national monument won't just benefit Angelenos. It will enrich all of us.
Today's announcement is part of a proud American tradition. Nearly every president in the past 100 years has declared national monuments, from Teddy Roosevelt creating the Grand Canyon National Monument to George W. Bush preserving 10 islands and 140,000 square miles of ocean waters in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
We get to experience these wild places because previous generations had the wisdom to preserve them. Now it's our turn to do the same for our children and grandchildren.
President Obama understands the value of protecting special places for all to enjoy. In his second inaugural address, he vowed to preserve treasured public lands threatened by development. The San Gabriel monument expands our natural heritage, but there is more in need of safeguarding -- extraordinary places like Utah's Greater Canyonlands. By continuing to save our wild places, President Obama can create a legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.