HR3039, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act

Condor Peak Trail before the Station Fire

Condor Peak Trail (2007)

On June 23, 2017, Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced a new bill to expand wilderness areas in the Angeles National Forest, and protect several rivers as wild and scenic rivers. Spearheaded by the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group, the bill is the result of many years of efforts to protect our local mountains.

A previous success of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group was the establishment of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. CORBA President Steve Messer has been representing mountain bikers on the San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative, working alongside representatives of the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and other environmental and social justice organizations.

For the past eighteen months we’ve been working together to ensure that mountain biking gets due consideration in these proposals. CORBA has opposed previous wilderness efforts that hurt bicyclists’ access to trails. With support from IMBA and MWBA, we worked out boundary adjustments that expand the Sheep Mountain and San Gabriel wilderness areas, but do not impact any trails that are currently open to bicycles.

The bill also establishes two new units of the Wilderness Preservation System, the Condor Peak Wilderness and the Yerba Buena Wilderness. These two wilderness areas protect the majestic Condor Peak, while leaving the Condor Peak trail outside the wilderness areas with a wide buffer.  While Condor Peak is not a popular trail for cyclists, it offers an increasingly-unique wilderness-type backcountry experience for those seeking to challenge themselves in nature. The trail can continue to be maintained using mechanized tools.

The western boundary of the proposed Yerba Buena Wilderness is the Yerba Buena Ridge trail, which could provide an epic backcountry loop ride with Condor Peak trail. Both trails, however, are in need of maintenance and are on our radar for future restoration work.

Condor Peak Trail

The following areas will be designated as wilderness in HR 3039:

Condor Peak Wilderness: Located in the Lower and Upper Big Tujunga Watersheds this designation preserves 8,417 acres of public lands. The unit rises abruptly from 1,800 feet on its southern flanks to over 6,000 feet at its northern boundary near Mt. Gleason. The Condor Peak Trail will be outside the Western boundary of this unit. Yerba Buena Wilderness: Preserves one of the most spectacular undeveloped landscapes in the San Gabriel Mountains (6,774 acres). The Condor Peak trail is just outside the eastern boundary of this unit. The western boundary is 300′ from the Yerba Buena Ridge trail, leaving both open to bicycles. The Trail Canyon Trail is cherry-stemmed (excluded from wilderness) up to the campground and waterfall. San Gabriel Wilderness Additions: This adds 2,027 acres to the existing San Gabriel Wilderness encompassing areas with dramatically rising slopes and a variety of flora and fauna. Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions: Adds 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.The bill also protects the 25.3 miles of the East, West and North Forks of the San Gabriel River, and 20.2 miles of Little Rock Creek as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

We truly appreciate being able to be proactive, working with the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, CalWild, and the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group. We also benefited greatly from IMBA’s support at the national level, and our partnership with the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association locally.

While this wilderness bill does not hurt mountain bikers’ access to trails, it does nothing to expand or directly improve existing opportunities. It does however, protect the remote backcountry experiences provided by the Condor Peak trail, the Yerba Buena Ridge trail, and the lower Trail Canyon Trail, ensuring these trails through this pristine landscape will be preserved, ready to be experienced by foot, hoof or bicycle.

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