Biden expected to expand two national monuments in California

By Jennifer Yachnin, Robin Bravender | 04/11/2024 04:35 PM EDT

Advocates have long sought to add land to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument near Los Angeles and the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument north of Sacramento.

The snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains.

The snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains look over Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 12, 2016. Nick Ut/AP

The Biden administration is expected to soon expand two national monuments in California, said two people familiar with White House plans.

President Joe Biden can add land to the monuments — the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument near Los Angeles and the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument north of Sacramento — by signing proclamations under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

There is no set date for the expansions, first reported Thursday by The Washington Post and later confirmed to E&E News by two people familiar with White House plans.


“Both of them should be happening sometime this month,” said one person with knowledge of White House discussions on the monuments, who asked not to be identified because of the confidential nature of the talks.

A second person familiar with the White House plans said the announcement could come next week or the week after. However, the timing doesn’t appear to have been finalized, said that person, who was granted anonymity because they had not been authorized to speak publicly about the plans.

The White House declined to comment. Spokespeople for the Interior Department referred questions to the White House, while the U.S. Forest Service could not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service together manage the Berryessa Snow Mountain monument, while the Forest Service manages the San Gabriel Mountains one.

Earlier on Thursday, White House energy and climate adviser John Podesta asserted that Biden would use his authority under the Antiquities Act to conserve more public lands.

“You’ll see some more,” Podesta said.

That law allows presidents to set aside existing federal lands to preserve areas of cultural, historic or scientific interest. Biden has designated five new national monuments since taking office.

The Biden administration has vowed to conserve at least 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, a program known as “America the Beautiful” or 30×30.

“We’re on track,” Podesta said Thursday. “He’s been an amazing president in the first term.”

Efforts to grow both California monuments have been stymied on Capitol Hill, where legislation has failed to gain traction.

“The San Gabriel Mountains are among the most pristine and beautiful public lands in the country, with more visitors annually than Yellowstone, and they are right next to one of the nation’s densest and most park-deprived population centers,” Democratic Rep. Judy Chu of California said in a statement.

Along with another California Democrat, Sen. Alex Padilla, Chu has sought to add more than 109,000 acres to the San Gabriel Mountains monument. The current site, designated by then-President Barack Obama in 2014, includes more than 346,000 acres, primarily in the Angeles National Forest and in a portion of the San Bernadino National Forest.

Advocates for the expansion also include organizations like the Green Latinos, Hispanic Access Foundation, Latino Outdoors, The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Wilderness Society.

Daniel Rossman, Southern California Mountains landscape director for The Wilderness Society, praised reports that the White House would act on the San Gabriel expansion.

“We haven’t seen Congress move this kind of legislation forward in the way that maybe we used to see in a more productive past, so using the tools that the president has to expand the national monument presents an incredible opportunity to preserve this place now and for future generations,” Rossman said.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland toured the Berryessa monument last September, along with Democratic Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson of California.

Garamendi and Thompson last year teamed up on a bill called the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act, which would expand the existing monument by 3,925 acres of adjacent public land administered by the BLM.

It would also require the BLM and the Forest Service to improve tribal engagement and co-management of the monument.

“I hope President Biden heeds our call to issue a presidential proclamation expanding the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument,” Garamendi said when he introduced the bill.

Reporters Rob Hotakainen and Scott Streater contributed.