By Jason KUROSU
The National Park Service’s recommendation to add 170,000 acres to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has been lauded as an important step toward the protection and preservation of local natural resources, despite some residents and conservation officials feeling that the Park Service could have gone further in its recommendation.
The final summary was released by the NPS on Feb. 16, and calls for doubling the size of the current recreation area, resulting in a total of 323,000 acres. New areas added include portions of the Los Angeles River, the Arroyo Seco corridor, the Verdugo Mountains above Glendale, the San Rafael Hills, the San Gabriel Mountains foothills, the Santa Susana Mountains, and the Cornejo Mountains.
The recommendations won’t carry weight without congressional legislation, which Congressman Adam Schiff said he is prepared to introduce, ideally this congressional session.
Schiff sponsored legislation authorizing the Rim of the Valley study in 2008, which led to four alternatives put forth by the National Park Service.
Schiff, along with what he estimated was “around 90%” of the 1,800 public comments submitted after the latest study in April 2015, pushed for Alternative D, which would have added approximately 313,000 acres to the recreation area. The NPS ultimately opted for a hybrid recommendation that combined Alternatives C and D, what the Park Service called the “most effective and efficient alternative.”
“Expanding Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area would provide one of the most densely populated areas in the United States better access to open space and recreational opportunities, as well as increase protection of ecological connections for wildlife,” said Martha J. Lee, acting regional director of the National Park Service’s Pacific West Region, in a prepared statement.
Schiff said this week that he “would have liked to see more land included” but was pleased at the opportunities for protection of open spaces and recreation afforded by the latest recommendation.
The choice of the hybrid alternative appears to be at least partially a practical decision on the part of the Park Service.
According to the latest summary, the newest boundary adjustment would result in an annual operating budget of $9.5 to $10.5 million and would require between 10 and 20 new staff members, along with continued assistance from volunteers.
Schiff said that though he expects the issue should gain a fair amount of bipartisan support, “I don’t take anything for granted.”
But he was optimistic that things were moving in the right direction and looked forward to working with members of the community to craft legislation marking “the final chapter” of the Rim of the Valley endeavor.
Those who wished to share their thoughts on the new study were encouraged to contact Congressman Schiff at SchiffROTV@mail.house.gov.