Preserving Open Space in the Rim of the Valley
Los Angeles is one of the rarest of the big cities in America, with millions of people living in close proximity to nature. We have mountain lions like P-22, who visit Griffith Park (and an occasional crawl space under our homes), and bears that eat the meatballs right out of your garage refrigerator. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is part of the very fabric of Los Angeles and deeply contributes to this unique link between the urban and natural world in our city.
After a long wait and much anticipation, we now have a draft recommendation from the National Park Service to significantly expand this recreation area. While we still have a lot of work ahead of us, this is an important milestone in the decade-long effort to preserve open space and connect urban populations to nature. If we don’t act now to maintain these wildlife corridors and open spaces for us to enjoy they will be gone for good and, along with them, some of what we love about Los Angeles.
How did we get here?
Back in 2003, I introduced legislation along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein which directed the National Park Service to conduct a special resource study to determine if the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
(SMMNRA) should be expanded to include the Rim of the Valley Corridor – a vast area stretching from the existing park through the Simi Hills and Santa Susannas, the Verdugos, and on to the San Gabriel Mountains. The legislation was signed into law in 2008 and the study began in 2010. In 2012, the Park Service released its preliminary findings and alternatives to the public – which overwhelmingly favored the largest expansion to park possible.
In April, the Park Service released its draft report, which included four updated alternatives for how the federal government can best provide assistance to the Rim of the Valley study area. The first is the “no action” alternative, where the Park Service would not have any additional authority. The second, Alternative B, would authorize the Park Service to provide assistance to areas within the study area but would not expand the boundary of the SMMNRA. Alternatives C and D would expand the boundary to enable the Park Service to utilize its full range of tools in order to assist local land managers in preserving open space and to connect urban communities to nature.
In its draft report, the Park Service indicated that it supported more than doubling the size of the existing park (Alternative C), but not the even more expansive option (Alternative D). Alternative C would expand the recreation area to the areas bordering the most populous areas of the Los Angeles region, including the mountains surrounding the San Fernando and La Crescenta valleys, as well as the Los Angeles and Arroyo Seco corridors. I was pleased to see that the Park Service recommended such a substantial enlargement of the existing recreation area. However, I was disappointed that the Park Service did not embrace Alternative D, which includes all land within Alternative C along with some additional land in the western portion of the study area that may be essential to the wildlife corridors connecting the study area to the Los Padres National Forest and the upper portion of the Angeles National Forest.
Any boundary expansion would authorize the Park Service to become a partner in the management of the land, provide technical assistance, expend funds on resource protection, visitor services, and land acquisition from willing sellers. Importantly, there is no eminent domain aspect in any of the recommendations.
This is a critical period in the process for residents in the 28th District and the entire Los Angeles area, as we have the unique opportunity to take part in preserving open space and ecosystems for our community to enjoy for generations to come. I encourage anyone interested in the study to review it and submit comments to the Park Service.
You can find the information and comment at Park Service website (http://www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley/). The comment period closes on June 30. It will consider all comments submitted during the comment period and will adjust its final recommendation accordingly. Therefore, it is critical that we all share our reactions to the Park Service. What do you feel are the most important aspects to be included? What are your concerns?
Please join me in advocating for the protection of our natural surroundings. It’s just one of things about our city that makes it so special – and it is something we as a community must fight to protect.