In this day and age the most effective way to achieve anything for the public good is to collaborate. Whether those collaborations are with land managers, other trail user groups, public-private partnerships, or other entities, they are necessary. Nothing gets accomplished in a vacuum.
It was through a collaboration with a number of different groups that the Strawberry Peak loop was restored and re-opened in the Angeles National Forest, now the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. It was only possible with several groups pooling and sharing resources and coordinating our efforts. We couldn’t have done it alone.
To help bolster support and improve community participation in and stewardship of the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, a Community Collaborative group has been formed. As one of the 12 “steering committee” members, I had the opportunity to help shape what that group will look like. The first meeting of the full Collaborative group was on March 4th, 2015.
At that meeting we had a broad range of interests in attendance. About five people from the invitee list were absent, which is to be expected trying organize a group of this size. The first order of the day was introductions. Water was well-represented with several water districts and the association of water districts in attendance. We had Caltrans, Edison, two LA County representatives including a District 5 representative, and Flood control. There was also a San Bernardino County representative. Also present were a number of councils of governments, and a council of chambers of commerce. Recreation was represented BY CORBA, California Off-Road Vehicle Association and the Community Hiking Club, and Mount Baldy resort. Native American interests were there, along with several social and health justice organizations. The National Forest Foundation did an excellent job of winnowing down an extensive interest list to bring this group together.
Since this was the first meeting of the full collaborative group, most of the day was spent going over and refining the draft documents that the steering committee had prepared. This included the guiding documents for the Collaborative, the Statement of Purpose, the Goals and the Code of Conduct. There was a lot of similar discussions to those the steering committee had already had, but these new points of view raised some issues that weren’t well-covered in our draft. We refined the documents and by day’s end, the group had formally ratified and adopted them.
We also heard an approximate timeline on the development of the Management Plan for the new monument, which must be completed by October 10, 2017, as stated in the Presidential Proclamation. Currently the Forest Service is developing a plan on how to reach out to the community effectively, this group being a key component of that plan. They have started preparing a “Need for Change” document, which states what needs to be changed in the current Angeles National Forest Management Plan to bring it into alignment with the language of the Proclamation. This need for change document will be posted publicly in the coming months as the starting point for the public process of developing the new management plan.
The group agreed to meet monthly during this first and extremely important year of the management plan development. We will continue to be active throughout the three-year process, and beyond.
Collaboration is key to the success of this endeavor. One of the big changes in the 2012 Forest Planning Rule, was an added emphasis on collaborative efforts as a more productive way of engaging the public in planning processes. There are many collaborative groups working on different Forests and Monuments, but this is the first in a major metropolitan area. Our population base and size presents unique challenges, but I’m confident that this Collaborative will be a productive one, supporting the efforts of the Forest Service to improve the Forest, this new National Monument, and to benefit the communities that depend on it.
One of my roles as a member of the Community Collaborative is to bring your concerns to the table going forward. Feel free to contact me with any concerns that you might find. In turn, I’ll be reporting back to you on the work and progress of the Collaborative, in addition to the Forest Service management plan development process.
Thanks to the National Forest Foundation for serving as neutral facilitators and organizers of this group. This post will be updated to include the Community Collaborative’s adopted Statement of Purpose once it is distributed, within a day or two.