The Final Step to Protect the Rim of the Valley
This month, the more than a decade-long effort to expand the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) has taken a critical step forward.
Shortly after I was elected to Congress in 2000, community members approached me about the need to preserve the vanishing open space in our region for future generations. So began the lengthy process of passing legislation to direct the National Park Service (NPS) to study an expansion of the SMMNRA, and later turn those recommendations into law.
In the years since the study bill’s passage, a broad coalition of stake holders, including open space advocates, homeowners and environmental groups, all seeking to preserve the wild spaces around the Los Angeles basin, have volunteered their time and input into helping shape the largest expansion in the recreation area’s history.
Now, we are closer than ever before to making this expansion a reality.
Last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer and I introduced the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act in both the House and Senate – legislation that would add 193,000 acres to the already existing National Recreation Area, more than doubling its size. The additional area includes the “Rim of the Valley,” an area that stretches from Simi Hills and Santa Susannas, the Verdugos, La Crescenta and on to the San Gabriel Mountains, and much more.
Our residents have the unique advantage of living near a major metropolis, but having access to miles of hiking trails through expansive wilderness only minutes away – sometimes very literally accessible from their backyards. The current SMMNRA serves as a vital connection between our urban and natural spaces for nearly 17 million Southern California residents. For Angelenos, the opportunities to hike, bike, bird-watch, horseback ride or simply get away from it all with friends, rivals some of the most magnificent regions in the country. This expansion would allow for the National Park Service to help build and maintain even more trails, expose more urban youth to the wonders of nature, and continue to serve patrons at one of the most heavily utilized parks in the nation.
Not only would this expansion of the SMMNRA further benefit our human residents, but it is a vital step in preserving a rare habitat for our local wildlife as well. As it stands now, the SMMNRA and Angeles National Forest do not include many vital linkages or “wildlife corridors” for animals to travel through our densely populated areas. From Meatball the bear wandering around La Crescenta to P-22 in Griffith Park, these animals only add to our closeness with nature right in our backyard. Adding these connections into the SMMNRA expansion will give our National Park Service more opportunities to preserve or expand these passages for wild animals. The Park Service will also have the ability to help residents in these protected areas understand in what ways they can contribute to the preservation of habitat as well.
Congress showed great foresight in the 1970s when it formed the SMMNRA and helped preserve this connection between our urban and natural environments, allowing both to thrive. Protecting this additional open space today helps us plan ahead for future population growth. As our cities continue to grow to accommodate more people, we must demonstrate the same commitment to preserving the environment and wildlife for future generations.
After receiving input from both the National Park Service’s multi-year impact study, as well as thousands of comments from local residents, I am more hopeful than ever that we can build on this proud history of the SMMNRA. This is the kind of bi-partisan, locally supported measure that can pass even in a Congress that is bitterly divided and so often unwilling to take action, even on our nation’s most pressing matters.
Our shared vision of a larger recreation area that preserves what is best about our region is now one step closer to reality, and it’s my hope Congress will act soon to pass the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) represents California’s 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.