An opinion submitted by Maricela Rosales
I still remember the first day I climbed in San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Every single climb is a connection with nature that one cannot explain without actually experiencing the adrenaline of the climb, the feeling of the rock, and the majestic views at the top. For me, climbing is not just the activity, but rather a personal journey I take with nature, a self-discovery of new terrain, new limits.
As someone that has been limited to the confinements of LA’s urban life due to health issues, each climb is a testament of my own perseverance, my own journey exploring parks in Los Angeles and throughout California.Yet, not all state and national parks have ADA access and can deter those with disabilities from visiting and experiencing many of the parks within Los Angeles and California. This led me to create the Abilities Project as a way to advocate for legislation and funding to help make our public lands accessible to all of the public.
This correlates to my belief that we need to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund once and for all. LWCF does not cost taxpayers a penny as it’s funded through royalties collected from offshore drilling companies. While it’s annual allocation is capped at a maximum of $900 million, Congress has only fully-funded twice within its’ 50 years of existence.
LWCF has successfully safeguarded countless acres of natural resources, greatly enhanced access to public lands, preserved our historical legacy, and supported local economies by boosting tourism. To this day, LWCF has helped protect more than 100 national battlefields, supported over 42,000 parks and recreation projects across the country, in addition to protecting more than 2.2 million acres of national parks.
In fact, more than 1,600 parks and projects in California have been supported through LWCF. This includes places like San Gabriel Mountains, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Santa Monica Mountains, the California desert and several other well-known tourist and recreation destinations. In total California has received more than $2.4 billion through LWCF with approximately $287 million being used for state and local programs.
While it has only been five years since the San Gabriel Mountains became a national monument, these special places have been here since before the United States acquired the land. I can only hope it will be here for communities in the future and I know that Los Angeles residents feel the same.
88 percent of Latino voters within Los Angeles believe that we must protect the San Gabriel Mountains. As the Los Angeles Coordinator for Latino Outdoors, I want to get more Latino families out to the mountains, not just to hike but to go fishing, picnicking, camping, and more. The national monument not only provides 70 percent of the land for recreational use, but it also contributes to a third of LA County’s drinking water. Our livelihood depends on these mountains.
Without the help of LWCF, the acquisition of the San Gabriel Mountains would not have been possible. We need to urge Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to fight for the permanent funding of LWCF so that California’s national, state and local parks continue to thrive.
This program would continue to help elevate the mission of Abilities Project in creating inclusive public lands, and in providing Latino families with the experience of what I felt the first time I climbed to the top of the terrain.