Public comments sought on California high-speed rail

In case you hadn’t heard, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has buckled to complaints from communities along Highway 14 and will not have the rail running through Santa Clarita.

Instead, they propose drilling through and under mountains in the Angeles Forest. And the Forest Service is playing along.

While the public comments requested at this stage relate to the request to drill test holes, this is a good time for concerned citizens to get involved in the project overall.

Details and links to related documents are in the article at the link below.



Read the full article on KPCC’s website >>


Six Years…

It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since the Station Fire destroyed much of Big Tujunga Canyon. It has been six hard years, full of drama, loss, tears and laughter. Some people have moved away. Some have shuffled off the mortal coil. New people have moved into the canyon. And some have rebuilt or are rebuilding.

Every year (except last year), I have thrown a memorial BBQ in honor of the Station Fire. What can I say? It appeals to my twisted sense of humor to char meats, fruit and vegetables in memory of the worst wildfire in Los Angeles County history.

Here are some photos from this year’s BBQ. Hopefully you will join us next year!




Instant party. Just add people!
Instant party. Just add people!
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Wildfires in Northern California

Just yesterday I posted an article talking about the difficulties in recovering from the Station Fire. A couple of hours later I learned via Facebook that a cousin of mine has lost her home and her animal rescue in the Boles Fire in Weed, CA. Talk about striking close to home…

Gabby and her family are among over 1500 people left homeless by the Boles Fire. As of this writing, news agencies are reporting over 100 structures lost in the wind-driven fire that started yesterday afternoon. Several family members, including me and my mom, have sent money so my cousin and her family can get what they need at the moment, but with so much destruction they are going to need help for weeks and months to come.


Five years and a lifetime ago…

Although five years isn’t really a long time, it seems as though the world is a very different place today compared to what it was on August 1, 2009. Objectively, I know that I have changed far more than the world around me, but subjectively there are times when I feel like a stranger in my own life. Things that I thought would never change have changed, and still other things I thought I could depend on have been lost forever.

For those of us who live (or lived) in the Angeles Forest, the Station Fire is more than a few lines in history. It was a cusp, a pivotal point beyond which nothing is the same. The fire itself was horrific, raging through the chaparral-covered hillsides with a vengeance like something out of the Old Testament. It destroyed old forest growth, wildlife, homes and lives. And I’m not just speaking of the two firefighters who died in the fire. In the five years since the Station Fire at least three Angelenos have died, one by suicide.

And I am not the only who feels altered, different from who we were before. Over and over again, as survivors have met and shared and bonded around this shared disaster experience, I have heard the same sentiments expressed, the same sense of otherness described. It is part of our bond, and something that we can accept in each other without question or judgement.

Rebuilding, where it has happened at all, has been slow and spotty. None of the homes lost on National Forest lands can be rebuilt, and few residents on privately owned lands have been able to return and rebuild. Red tape and inter-agency turf wars have made a daunting task nearly impossible for more than a few, and the process has been wearing for everyone who has made the effort.

Five years after the Station Fire I am still wrestling with the reality that the forest I knew is never going to be the same. The trees are different, the wildlife is different, the riverbed is very different, even the quality of the light and air is different. Sometimes different is not a bad thing, but in this case the differences are constant reminders of what was lost. Those differences are sometimes so great that it seems as though the forest I knew was a place where I lived in another life.


Dear Mr. President…

What follows is the full text of a letter I sent to President Obama regarding the proposal to turn the Angeles National Forest into a National Monument. The opinions expressed are mine and do not reflect those of any organization or agency.

Dear Mr. President,

I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about a proposal to make the Angeles National Forest into a National Monument. I am opposed to this plan, and I would like for you to understand my reasons why.

I am a third-generation native of Los Angeles and a long-time resident within the Angeles National Forest. As such, I am intimately familiar with these mountains, their use (and abuse), their issues, and with the political shenanigans that take place in and around all of the above. It’s not quite as bad as the nonsense on Capitol Hill, but some days it seems close. This is one of them.

I believe that the proposal to convert the Angeles into a National Monument has little to do with however it is being sold. I believe that the proposal is part bait-and-switch, and partly mechanization to prevent a high-speed railway from being built within the bounds of the Forest. Neither objective is being expressed by the loudest proponents, but for someone like me who is used to reading through the political bureau-speak, these hidden agendas are pretty easy to spot.

First, let’s address the bait-and-switch. This selection of arguments has been around the longest and has the greatest number of supporters.

Proponents of turning the Angeles into a National Monument (e.g. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena) make it pretty clear that they think becoming a National Monument will mean that the Angeles would suddenly have access to much-needed personnel and funding. It is no secret that the Angeles National Forest gets more use from neighboring residents than any other forest in the nation. Nor is it a surprise that that use would stretch the resources of any agency, national or otherwise. If the Angeles Forest were properly maintained, we would see regular work being done to maintain and upgrade trails, picnic and camping facilities, school camps, etc. The reality is that what facilities exist are woefully neglected, and the personnel are horrendously understaffed. Their equipment is old and in poor repair, breaking down on a regular basis, and their budgets keep getting cut in spite of increased demands on their resources.

It would be nice if becoming a National Monument would or could change this sorry state of affairs. Unfortunately, the National Monuments around the country have similar issues. They are already behind in deferred maintenance to the tune of billions of dollars. Adding another forest to that system, and a needy one at that, would do nothing to help matters for anyone.

Now let’s look at the high-speed rail issue. Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich recently suggested that a high-speed rail corridor be redirected to cut through part of the Angeles National Forest. This issue is comparatively new to the bevy of arguments related to the Angeles, but it’s one more thing that folks in favor of the National Monument are using to support their position. Their belief is that if the Angeles Forest were a National Monument, the suggested high-speed rail corridor would not be allowed to encroach on forest lands.

I don’t know enough about the National Monument rules to know if this is the case. Personally, I think the suggestion was made by Supervisor Antonovich in response to pressure from communities along the previously proposed route. Likewise, I think that turning the Angeles into a National Monument is kind of like using an anvil to swat a fly. There are likely to be unforeseen consequences that are less than desirable.

Finally, I am opposed to turning the Angeles Forest into a National Monument for a very simple reason. In my opinion the Angeles Forest is not monument-worthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these mountains! I grew up visiting them, playing in their creeks and climbing their trails, and I am blessed beyond measure to call them my home. But they’re just a bunch of hills. The San Gabriel Mountains are not particularly distinctive. There are no unusual rock formations worthy of putting on a postcard. We have no exceptional trees that cars can drive through. Nor are there any other natural formations that cannot be found in any one of a dozen mountain ranges in the western states.

I also dislike this push to have you make the Angeles into a National Monument in a run-around move behind Congress. Of all the issues that you face, this is so low on the list of priorities for our nation as to be laughable. If you are going to do something by means of an Executive Order, do something to help our working poor, our veterans, or to enforce existing laws to put criminal bankers in prison.

In an ideal universe, you would not have to fight Congress to get funding to support our citizens, our infrastructure, or our national resources, parks, forests and monuments included. But we don’t live in an ideal universe, so I know you have to do the best you can.

I believe that making the Angeles National Forest into a National Monument will not solve its problems. For that reason, among others, I am opposed to the proposal and I urge you to reject it.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Bronwen Aker


For additional information about the proposal to turn the Angeles Forest into a National Monument, please read the articles linked below:

Chu calls for San Gabriel Mountains to be named national monument
Proposal for rail corridor through Angeles National Forest draws fire