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San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains
Special Resource Study

Frequently-Asked Questions (updated May 2013)

Q: How will the study recommendations be implemented?
A: Implementation of the selected alternative would require Congressional legislation. If Congress does not pass legislation to implement the study’s recommendations, then the study would simply remain as a recommendation. If Congress passes legislation addressing the San Gabriel area, the legislation would be the guiding policy for the park unit, and would supersede the recommendations of the study report.

If Congress establishes a national park unit, the NPS would begin implementing the Congressional legislation. One of the first steps that the NPS would take would be to work with area partners on a management plan, including a broad vision for the park unit and more detailed guidance for implementation. This management plan would be completed with public involvement and appropriate environmental compliance.

Q: Why is the preferred alternative different than what was presented in the draft study special resource study?
A: The special resource study process provides for the NPS to “identify what alternative or combination of alternatives would in the professional judgment of the Director of the NPS be most effective and efficient in protecting significant resources and providing for public enjoyment.”

Because of the increasing fiscal constraints faced by the NPS, the NPS leadership worked hard to find the most efficient way to provide the greatest benefit in the NPS final recommendation.

In refining the selected alternative, we also were able to take advantage of the Service First authority, which was authorized on a permanent basis in December 2011, to achieve some of the goals of the draft alternatives in new ways.

In this case, the selected alternative is primarily a combination of recommendations included in draft alternatives A (San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area, managed by the USFS) and D (San Gabriel Region National Recreation Area as a unit of the NPS). The main difference is that a new designation has not been recommended for the Angeles National Forest.

Instead, the selected alternative recommends the same recognition, tools, and support to the Angeles NF that were recommended in alternatives A and D of the draft special resource study, and direction to the USFS and NPS to work together through the Service First authority and other mechanisms to accomplish the goals that were previously part of alternative D.

Q: Why didn’t the National Park Service recommend a separate national recreation area for the San Gabriel watershed and mountains as was considered in the draft study report?
A: The NPS determined that management of a San Gabriel unit by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) would be the most effective and efficient method of NPS management given the close proximity of the San Gabriel area to the SMMNRA and the long-term experience of the SMMNRA in developing partnerships and cooperative management approaches. In addition, the Service First authority introduced new opportunities for the NPS and the US Forest Service to share their workloads without sharing a boundary.

The selected alternative includes many of the recommendations for the San Gabriel watershed and mountains that were included in alternatives A (San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area) and D (San Gabriel Region National Recreation Area) as presented in the draft special resource study. The only differences are the mechanisms for how these recommendations would be implemented.

Q: How would management of the Angeles NF differ under the selected alternative, vs. what was considered under Alternative D?
A: There is very little difference between the alternatives in how the Angeles NF would be managed. Under both alternatives, the Angeles NF would continue to be managed by the US Forest Service, under US Forest Service policies. Both alternatives allow for the National Park Service, at the invitation of the US Forest Service, to work collaboratively within the Angeles NF to protect significant resources and provide high quality recreation and education opportunities.

Q: Is a more detailed map of the San Gabriel Unit available?
A: Yes, the NPS has posted an 11x17 map with more detailed information on the study website, Selected Alternative Map – Detailed 11x17.

Q: Will the NPS make copies of the full final study report available?
A: The final study report consists of three separate documents, the draft study report (2011), errata/or technical corrections to the draft study report, and the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). These documents will not be combined into one final report. A summary of the study findings and recommendations is available as well as a CD-ROM that contains all three documents.

Q: Was additional environmental review completed on the selected alternative?
A: Because the selected alternative is comprised of actions which were fully analyzed in the draft study report as components of the No Action alternative and alternatives A, C and D, the NPS determined that no additional environmental review was necessary under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Based on analysis of the effects of No Action and alternatives A, C, and D, the NPS has determined that the selected alternative would have no significant adverse effects on biological resources, cultural resources, recreation resources, socioeconomics, land use, or water resources.

Q: How did public comments on the draft special resource study factor in the NPS decision on the selected alternative?
A: The NPS received over 12,000 comments on the draft special resource study/ environmental assessment. Most of the comments came in the form of organized campaigns in support of alternative D (San Gabriel Region National Recreation Area). The primary reasons cited for support of alternative D included their beliefs that NPS expertise and management would enhance the protection of the San Gabriel watershed and mountains and the opportunities for public enjoyment; would provide other avenues to fund resource protection and recreational opportunities; and would help protect wildlife corridors and provide close to home recreation opportunities in urban areas. The selected alternative includes recommendations for each of these desired elements.

Public comments also indicated that having both the NPS and the US Forest Service manage portions of the same national recreation area might be confusing and duplicative. Such comments expressed concern about reconciling differences between the NPS and USFS management policies under one designation. Many of these commenters preferred no designation for the Angeles National Forest based on fears that existing uses might change, impacting current recreational users. The selected alternative provides a mechanism for the NPS and USFS to work together without applying a new designation to the existing national forest.

Q: What is the Service First authority and why wasn’t it considered in the alternatives presented in the draft study report?
A: The Service First authority provides a mechanism for the NPS, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service to work with each other on common interests anywhere in the country. The law creating Service First gives the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture the authority to establish programs involving certain land management agencies to:

  1. Conduct activities jointly or on behalf of one another;
  2. Collocate in Federal offices or leased facilities; and
  3. Make reciprocal delegations of their respective authorities, duties and responsibilities
  4. Make transfer of funds and reimbursement of funds on an annual basis, including transfers and reimbursements for multi-year projects.

The Service First authority was not referenced in the alternatives in the draft special resource study because it was only authorized on a permanent basis in December 2011, after the draft special resource study was released for public review. However, Service First now provides the same authorities for the NPS and the U.S. Forest Service to engage in agency partnerships and cooperative management agreements as were recommended in alternatives C (San Gabriel Watershed National Recreation Area) and D (San Gabriel Region National Recreation Area) as part of a national recreation area designation.

Q: How would the selected alternative affect existing regulatory authorities (e.g. local governments, other federal and state agencies) and private property rights?
A: The NPS selected alternative is only a recommendation to Congress. Implementation would require Congressional legislation. An NPS designation, as proposed in the selected alternative, would not establish additional regulatory or land use control over existing authorities and local governments. NPS land management regulations and policies would only apply to lands that the NPS acquires or owns. The NPS would only acquire land by donation or from willing sellers.

Q: If I own a home or business inside the yellow area, what does it mean for me? What kind of restrictions would there be on the land? What kind of opportunities might there be?
A: There would be no change in regulations or ownership. The National Park Service would not have any authority over lands which it does not own. Private homes and businesses would still be regulated by local land use zoning. There may be new opportunities for close-to-home recreation or conservation.

Q: How would establishment of a San Gabriel unit affect the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area?
A: Establishment of a San Gabriel unit of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) would place new responsibilities on SMMNRA staff, and would also provide new opportunities to reach out to urban audiences. The special resource study identifies the funding and staffing levels needed for SMMNRA to manage the San Gabriel unit, however, Congress would determine actual funding levels.

Q: How would SMMNRA manage the San Gabriel unit?
If legislation is passed to establish the San Gabriel unit of the SMMNRA, that legislation would provide the guiding policy for the new unit. It is likely that some staff would be stationed at the San Gabriel unit, while other staff would be shared with SMMNRA. Management details would be determined later, but it is likely that similarthat similar management approaches would be used in both areas. If established, a management plan would be developed for the San Gabriel Unit in partnership with agencies and organizations that own/manage land within the area and with opportunities for public involvement. Such a management plan could provide a vision and guidance for management of the San Gabriel Unit, identify collaborative opportunities with the U.S. Forest Service in the Angeles National Forest, and identify NPS technical assistance opportunities in the broader region.

Q: Are there other national parks with geographically separated units?
A: Yes, numerous parks have geographically separated units. Perhaps the situation that is most similar to proposed San Gabriel unit of the SMMNRA is Gateway NRA in the New York City metropolitan area. Gateway NRA has three separate units separated by densely populated urban areas: the Staten Island Unit and Jamaica Bay Unit in New York, and the Sandy Island Unit in New Jersey.

Q: How will this final recommendation affect the Rim of the Valley Special Resource Study (SRS)?
A: The NPS will continue to prepare the Rim of the Valley SRS, addressing the public comments submitted this past fall in response to preliminary findings and alternatives, and writing the draft study report. The study team will adopt the findings of the San Gabriel SRS for the overlapping portions of the study area, and may modify the draft Rim of the Valley SRS alternatives in response to the recommendations of the San Gabriel SRS. The Rim of the Valley draft special resource study and environmental assessment are expected to be available for public review and comment in early 2014.

Q: What is a Special Resource Study?
In a special resource study, the National Park Service (NPS) evaluates the natural and cultural resources of an area, and identifies opportunities for public enjoyment and recreation. Upon completion of the study, NPS provides a report to Congress and the local community with recommendations for the protection and public enjoyment of significant natural and cultural resources.

Q: Why is the NPS conducting this study?
Congress directs the NPS to conduct special resource studies through passing a law. In this study, the San Gabriel River Watershed Study Act (Public Law 108-042 - July 2003) directed the NPS to conduct a Special Resource Study of (1) the San Gabriel River and its tributaries north of and including the city of Santa Fe Springs, and (2) the San Gabriel Mountains within the territory of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC).

The Act also directs the NPS to consult with the RMC and other appropriate federal, state and local government entities, and to consider regional flood control and drainage needs and publicly owned infrastructure such as wastewater treatment facilities.

Q: Are there national parks in urban areas?
When people think of national parks what comes to mind are the large and mostly natural “traditional” parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. However, the national park system includes many types of sites including national historic sites, national monuments, national preserves, and wild and scenic rivers. Many are smaller “nontraditional” parks located in urban areas, which rely on partnerships and may have little, if any, federal landownership or management. The NPS also offers grant and technical assistance programs that help local communities achieve their goals for conservation and recreation.

updated 5/7/13