As a business owner and father of two active daughters, I am struck each summer break by what more we need to do to ensure my kids can enjoy the outdoors with their own children someday. Here in Southern California, that means speaking up for our precious public lands, like the San Gabriel Mountains.
My kids get only some of the blame for my house being full of too many surfboards, fishing rods, bikes and other miscellaneous outdoor equipment. The motto at our company, the Horny Toad, is “Every day is an adventure,” which is a reflection of my many outdoor passions. My family and our outdoor escapades inspire a commitment to building socially responsible businesses – and advocating for protection and use of our Great Outdoors.
That’s why I was pleased to read about Congresswoman Judy Chu’s efforts to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains The San Gabriels provide Los Angeles County with 70 percent of its open space, one-third of its drinking water, and estimates of more than $60 million in annual economic benefit from outdoor recreation and tourism – from hunting and fishing to hiking and picnicking.
Permanent protection of these public lands will help provide clean air and water for drinking, conserve wildlife habitat and open space from development, reduce trash in and along the San Gabriel River, and improve access and opportunities for families to simply get outdoors.
In California, more than half of all residents get outdoors regularly to enjoy our parks and public lands. According to a new report by the Outdoor Industry Association, “a record number of Americans (143 million) participated in at least one outdoor activity (in 2013), and collectively, went on 12.1 billion outdoor outings; participation among children ages 6 to 12 and young adults ages 18 to 24 made modest gains” compared with 2012.
I take seriously these surveys about public use of the outdoors, especially among the younger generation. It is important that our children have opportunities to get outside and explore nature.
Protecting our wild places is one means to that end; the second is ensuring all families can enjoy them – for health, well-being and local economic opportunity.
Thanks to the leadership of Chu and the U.S. Forest Service, conversations are happening about how to permanently protect and enhance the San Gabriel Mountains. Personally, I support a national monument designation for the public lands of the San Gabriel Mountains. Such a designation could be a critical step toward achieving Chu’s broader vision for the connecting the region to outdoor recreational opportunities. It could mean greater attention and resources to the area for maintaining and enhancing these public lands, with improved parking and rest rooms, better trash collection and new recreation opportunities that extend into the San Gabriel Valley. Recreational activities could include hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing, hunting and camping.
When protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, N.M., a few months ago, President Barack Obama said he “wasn’t done” responding to Americans’ calls for conservation leadership. I would urge the president to take a look at what Chu and the community have proposed here in Southern California, and consider acting next to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains and rivers for our children, and for future generations.
Gordon Seabury is chief executive of Horny Toad Outdoor Clothing in Santa Barbara; vice chairman of the board of directors of the Outdoor Industry Association; and on the board of governors for Heal the Bay, which advocates for the Santa Monica Bay.
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