In Letter, Members Urge National Park Service to Both Maintain Natural Habitats and Create Recreational Opportunities
Wednesday, the Los Angeles Congressional delegation led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), sent a letter to the National Park Service (NPS) urging the agency, as part of their process of soliciting feedback on the Rim of the Valley Study, to both expand the boundary of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA), and focus on making the Rim of the Valley accessible to the public and helping its ecosystem long-term. After legislation sponsored by Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in 2007 authorizing the Interior Department to examine the suitability of increasing the size of the Recreation Area by encompassing part or all of this corridor and preserve it within our National Park system was signed into law, this study is the next step towards the process of preserving the Rim of the Valley for future generations. The Members signing the letter besides Rep. Schiff were Brad Sherman, Judy Chu, Henry Waxman, Tony Cárdenas, Karen Bass, Grace Napolitano, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mark Takano, and Alan Lowenthal.
“In the 1970′s when the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation was created, Congress had the foresight to see that LA’s population would grow and thrive, and it was necessary to act to preserve the open space and natural wonders around us,” said Rep. Schiff. “The only question is whether our generation will show the same concern for future generations. Experiencing the mountains and wilderness in our backyard is something that every family should have the opportunity to do, not just now, but in the future as well. By incorporating the Rim of the Valley as part of the National Recreation Area, we will preserve this opportunity and resource for decades to come.”
In the letter to the NPS, the Members write: “Alternatives C and D both expand the boundary of SMMNRA and would provide SMMNRA the authority to manage the new area in the same manner as the existing NRA, in partnership with existing land management agencies and organizations. But because the two alternatives have different focuses — C on expanding recreational opportunities for urban audiences and D on promoting the long term resiliency of the natural resources within the area — choosing only one of these alternatives would leave thousands of acres of nationally significant resources without adequate protection. The National Park Service should create a hybrid alternative that would include the boundary extensions of SMMNRA of both alternatives C and D. This hybrid alternative would provide comprehensive preservation of the region’s mountain ranges and trail systems and maintain habitat connectivity, while also ensuring that the objectives of the two alternatives are realized.”
The full letter, sent today by the ten members, is below:
National Park Service
570 W. Avenue 26, #175
Los Angeles, CA 90065
Dear Ms. Dove,
We write to provide our view of the National Park Service’s ongoing Rim of the Valley Corridor Special Resources Study. We are pleased that the Study’s recently released Preliminary Findings and Alternative Concepts document found the study area to be a suitable addition to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) and we have a series of recommendations to improve the alternatives in the document.
We share the Study’s assessment that the study area contains nationally significant resources and would be a feasible addition to SMMNRA. The study area offers outstanding examples of geologic history, including the Transverse Ranges Province, and high levels of biodiversity, such as the rare San Fernando Valley spineflower at Laskey Mesa in the Simi Hills. The study area includes a superb example of the rare Mediterranean chaparral ecosystem. It also has enormous importance as a hiking, educational and recreational resource. These attributes and others should be protected for future generations to enjoy. Using the collaborative partnership-based park model, employed successfully by SMMNRA, will allow the boundary of SMMNRA to be expanded to include part or all of the study area and will ensure that NPS and its partners can protect natural and cultural resources in that area and provide recreational opportunities to the surrounding populations.
While it is clear that the study area is a suitable and feasible addition to the SMMNRA, the alternatives put forward in the document offer different approaches to achieving this worthwhile and critical goal. And we believe that the best approach would be to draw from the strengths of the different alternatives.
Alternatives C and D both expand the boundary of SMMNRA and would provide SMMNRA the authority to manage the new area in the same manner as the existing NRA, in partnership with existing land management agencies and organizations. But because the two alternatives have different focuses — C on expanding recreational opportunities for urban audiences and D on promoting the long term resiliency of the natural resources within the area — choosing only one of these alternatives would leave thousands of acres of nationally significant resources without adequate protection. The National Park Service should create a hybrid alternative that would include the boundary extensions of SMMNRA of both alternatives C and D. This hybrid alternative would provide comprehensive preservation of the region’s mountain ranges and trail systems and maintain habitat connectivity, while also ensuring that the objectives of the two alternatives are realized.
Alternative D also wisely recognizes the value in facilitating habitat connectivity between the Los Padres National Forest and Rim of the Valley Corridor by authorizing NPS to engage in cooperative conservation partnerships with public and private actors to the north of the study area. This Cooperative Conservation Partnership Area should remain in the hybrid alternative. A Cooperative Conservation Partnership Area should also be added to the hybrid alternative to connect the two portions of the Angeles National Forest in the Santa Clara River watershed. This inter-mountain range habitat linkage in the Angeles National Forest would ensure the preservation of this critical habitat.
Although Alternative B would not expand the SMMNRA boundary and would not provide NPS the authority to acquire or manage lands outside of the current SMMNRA boundary, it does include one worthwhile proposal that should be included in the hybrid alternative. The Alternative recommends that SMMNRA provide continuing technical assistance to a partnership of public and private landowners, organizations and institutions in the region. This technical assistance could take many helpful forms — NPS staff participating in and lending guidance to national resource surveys, education activities focused on connecting people to the resources and stories of the study area and working on Rim of the Valley Trail planning. This idea should be incorporated into the hybrid alternative so that local residents can better interact with and obtain a stronger understanding of the beauty and history of the area.
Additionally, both the Rim of the Valley Study and the San Gabriel Mountains and Watershed Special Resources Study include the western part of the Angeles National Forest. We request that that Rim of the Valley Study incorporate the findings from the San Gabriel Study, which is further along in the study process, into their analysis of this area. We further ask that that the San Gabriel Mountains in the western Angeles National Forest north of the Rim of the Valley trail are included in any future San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area, not in an expansion of the SMMNRA.
Lastly, we believe that the hybrid alternative requires direct NPS management. Only NPS has the resources and expertise needed to protect the significant natural resources in the study area, ensure habitat connectivity between adjacent tracks of federally protected land, support trail and recreation efforts, and provide critical technical assistance to enhance residents’ experience with and connection to the study area. As this process moves forward, we strongly urge NPS to give full consideration to a hybrid alternative that includes the strengths of Alternatives B, C and D.
Signers: Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Judy Chu, Henry Waxman, Tony Cárdenas, Karen Bass, Grace Napolitano, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mark Takano, Alan Lowenthal