By Jason KUROSU
The National Park Service has recommended adding 170,000 acres to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area in their full study of the Rim of the Valley corridor released Tuesday.
The updated study concludes that the new boundary adjustment represents “the most effective and efficient alternative,” which includes portions of the Los Angeles River, the San Gabriel Mountains, the Verdugo Mountains-San Rafael Hills, the Simi Hills, the Santa Susana Mountains and the Cornejo Mountain area. The Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument were not included in the latest boundary adjustment.
The new boundaries come after an April 2015 draft study report that included 1,800 public comments and four alternatives for the 650,000 acre study area. The National Park Service ultimately selected a combination of Alternatives C and D, incorporating the approximate acreage of Alternative C with 52,000 acres that were considered for Alternative D.
Congressman Adam Schiff, who originally authorized the Rim of the Valley study in 2008, said in a statement, “Such an expansion will enable the National Park Service, local governments, and private citizens to better preserve green space and increase access to recreational opportunities for our urban and suburban communities. I applaud the Park Service for embracing a vision of an expanded recreation area to preserve this wonderful natural landscape.”
Congressional legislation is needed to implement the Park Service’s recommendations and for any potential expansion of the boundary area. Assuming the recommendations are adopted by Congress, the Park Service would then be authorized to establish visitor facilities and protect wildlife and other natural resources within the boundary area.
Whether the new boundaries went far enough is up for debate.
Alternative D in the 2015 study called for 313,000 acres added to the study area, encompassing the majority of the Rim of the Valley corridor, including the Angeles National Forest and national monument areas left out of the final study.
Schiff did state some reservations with the new boundaries, saying he wished “the Park Service went even further in some of the areas as was clearly the hope of the many thousands of constituents who submitted public comment and advocated for an even bigger park, as provided for in Alternative D of the Park Service’s draft report,” said Schiff.
Should the boundary area be expanded, the National Park Service would draft a management plan specifying priorities and funding needs for the newly added areas.
“Now that we have the completed study in hand, we will move forward with the work of crafting legislation to make the park expansion a reality,” Schiff said. “I look forward to continuing to consult with the community and stakeholders as we pursue our shared goal of preserving the natural resources in our area for generations to come.”
The final summary of the Rim of the Valley study can be viewed at http://www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley/Rim_of_the_Valley_Final_Summary_2016.pdf.