By Mary O’KEEFE
On Tuesday the National Park Service (NPS) released the Rim of the Valley Corridor Draft Special Resource Study and Environmental Assessment for public review.
The study is another step in the process of determining if any portion of the Rim of the Valley Corridor is eligible to be designated as part of the national park system or added to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area (SMMNRA). In other words, will there be any wilderness set aside for protection and, if so, how much?
This journey to save some land along the Rim of the Valley Corridor began about eight years ago when Congressman Adam Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation that authorized the Interior Department to examine the feasibility of increasing the size of the Recreation Area using part or all of the corridor.
“What started [the request] was when [many] of my constituents expressed a strong desire in preserving [the wilderness] around them,” Schiff said.
The constituents saw wildlife and wildland disappearing.
Schiff praised the decision of the 1970s Congress to create the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.
“Congress had the foresight to see that the Los Angeles population would grow and thrive, and it was necessary to act to preserve the open space and natural wonders around us,” he said. “If they had not [created SMMNRA, the wilderness it protected] would be gone by now.”
The process for the study was not easy.
“It took years to get that  legislation passed and it took more [time] for the study to be funded and then the study undertaken,” Schiff said of the timeline.
NPS looked into four alternatives: Alternative A, Continuation of Current Management (No Action); Alternative B, Cooperative Conservation Partnership, which would foster cooperative planning and funding tools for the NPS, partner agencies and landowners in the study area, and key habitat linkages to the Los Padres and Angeles National Forests. No new areas would be added to SMMNRA; Alternative C, Rim of the Valley Boundary Adjustment would add 173,000 acres to SMMNRA’s authorized boundary to provide more parks and protect habitat linkages, with an emphasis on creating more recreational opportunities near urban areas; Alternative D, Regional Rim of the Valley Boundary Adjustment and Cooperative Conservation Areas would add 313,000 acres to SMMNRA’s authorized boundary with an emphasis on protecting regional wildlife corridors. Cooperative conservation approaches would be recommended for key habitat linkages between the Rim of the Valley Corridor study area and the Los Padres and Angeles National Forests.
The NPS recommended Alternative C.
“While I am grateful that the Park Service has shown the foresight of recommending a substantial enlargement of the existing recreation area by embracing Alternative C, I am disappointed that it did not also adopt Alternative D, which would provide the greatest resource protection possible,” Schiff said in a released statement.
The process of wildlife and open land preservation may take some time but protecting and preserving the environment is not a surprising response for Californians.
“I think this is characteristic of Californians to want to preserve the natural beauty around us. It is what makes our area special,” Schiff said. “I love the fact that we have mountain lion and that we have bears. How many places can you live in a suburban and urban setting and you have wildlife around you?”
It will once again be time for the public to add their voice to the Rim of the Valley decision.
Schiff will be holding a town hall meeting for interested constituents and community members to discuss the new draft report and offer feedback and concerns to the NPS on April 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Descanso Gardens-Van de Kamp Hall, 1418 Descanso Drive. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to Schiff’s District Office at (818) 420-2900 or (323) 315-5555.
Other public meetings include a virtual/online public meeting on April 21 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. For instructions go to www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley.
Also on May 4 a meeting is being held at the La Crescenta Library, 2809 Foothill Blvd., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Additional meetings are being held in Newhall, Thousand Oaks, Chatsworth and Downtown Los Angeles.