Today President Barack Obama will travel to Los Angeles County, Calif., to designate the San Gabriel Mountains as America’s newest national monument, and a timeless piece of our national heritage. In many ways this nation’s story is etched into its land, and as the president is recognizing today, each of our monuments provides us with an important cultural bridge between our past and our future.
In his time in office, President Obama has preserved more than 3 million acres of public land, and he’s not done yet. Natural treasures like the San Gabriel Mountains are not only remarkably beautiful, as they frame the Los Angeles skyline, but with this new designation, they will bring even more tangible benefits to the 15 million people who live in their shadow. Tourism in the area will be strengthened, as will local businesses as hikers, bikers, outdoor adventurists and nature lovers make their way to enjoy all 346,177 acres receiving the president’s new designation.
The president remains committed to respecting and reflecting our nation’s diversity in the monuments and precious lands we preserve, while ensuring access to parkland, monuments, historical landmarks and majestic landscapes for Americans of all backgrounds to relish.
Especially as young people spend more and more time in front of screens and experiencing the world through technology, it is becoming even more critical to ensure our children have access to outdoor space to breathe in fresh air, stay active, and experience the fishing, camping and hiking that are central to so many Americans’ most special childhood memories.
A National Recreation and Parks Association study showed that consistent interaction with nature brings with it a variety of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduced stress. And areas that have parks within walking distance have obesity rates that are 20 percent lower than areas without them. Our parks system is not only an investment in protecting our nation’s natural beauty; it’s an investment in our long-term health and the vitality of our communities.
As important as keeping American families and our young people connected to nature is the value of keeping them connected to our history. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland reminds us of the sacrifice and courage at the core of our American spirit. The César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, Calif., provides a permanent platform to honor one of this country’s most passionate, collaborative and effective champions for the rights of farmworkers and all people striving for fair wages and humane working conditions. And even written into the stone face of the San Gabriel Mountains, not far from where the president will speak today, you can still find the ancient expressions of America’s first people in gorgeous Native American rock art.
It’s critical that we stay connected to the land and to the stories that define our national narrative. Today’s designation will once again demonstrate the impact of meaningful conservation for communities across the country.
Click here to view the fact sheet on today’s designation.
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Valerie Jarrett is a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Follow her on Twitter.