National Park Services Study Would Expand SMMNRA

March 1, 2016
In The News

Februruay 25, 2016

Topanga Messenger 

On February 16, the National Park Service (NPS) released its final Rim of the Valley Corridor study (https://www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley/) proposing Alternative C, that recommends expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) by adding approximately 170,000 acres to it. 

The NPS final study recommendation, or “selected alternative,” is essentially a combination of alternatives proposed in the “Rim of the Valley Corridor Draft Special Resource Study and Environmental Assessment” released in April 2015.

The report says, in part, “The National Park Service's final study recommendation, or "selected alternative,” is essentially a combination of possible alternatives proposed in the Rim of the Valley Corridor Draft Special Resource Study and Environmental Assessment released in April 2015. The selected alternative proposes a 170,000-acre boundary adjustment to SMMNRA, which would include portions of the Los Angeles River and Arroyo Seco corridors, the Verdugo Mountains-San Rafael Hills, the San Gabriel Mountains foothills, the Simi Hills, the Santa Susana Mountains, and the Conejo Mountain area.”

The study is the result of years of effort by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who worked with local organizations and members of Congress to “provide for more connections between urban populations and nature and better wildlife habitat protection.” 

In 2008, Congress passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Schiff directing the NPS to conduct a special resource study to determine the feasibility of providing federal protection to the Rim of the Valley Corridor, an area that stretches from the existing SMMNRA, through the Simi Hills and Santa Susanas, Verdugos and on to the San Gabriel Mountains. 

In the spring of 2015, the National Park Service released its draft report, and offered four alternatives–A through D–and opened up the conversation for public comment. 

Alternative A would result in a continuation of current management, and thus no action. 

Alternative B would authorize the SMMNRA to create partnerships within the study area, but result in no boundary adjustments; NPS involvement would come in the form of technical assistance and cooperative partnerships to establish an interconnected system of parks, habitat and open space. 

Alternative C would expand the SMMNRA boundary to include areas within the Rim of the Valley study area and focus on areas closest to dense urban populations for the purposes of connecting people to parks; it would include the full range of NPS tools and authorities to protect habitats, provide access to recreation and education, and provide NPS technical assistance and capital improvements. 

Alternative D would expand the boundaries set forth in Alternative C to include more resource and wildlife protections.

In its draft report, NPS designated Alternative C the preferred alternative, but in response to the draft report, approximately 1,800 members of the public, government agencies, organizations and other institutions submitted their comments to both the NPS and Congressman Schiff’s office that were overwhelmingly in favor of Alternative D, the most expansive of the alternatives.

In his press statement, Schiff felt that that Alternative C does not go far enough.

“This is a significant milestone in the very long journey to protect and preserve this vast and amazing open space,” he said. 

“I wish, however, that 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. 

“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. 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.”

In their letter to the NPS, Los Angeles Congressional Delegation Members —Reps. Schiff, Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), Tony Cardenas (D-San Fernando), Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles), Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles)—wrote: 

“In 2013, after the National Park Service released its preliminary findings and alternatives, many members of the Los Angeles delegation joined in urging NPS to create a hybrid alternative, which would focus on both connecting urban communities to open space (Alternative C) and connecting natural habitats (Alternative D).

“This hybrid alternative would provide comprehensive preservation of the region’s mountain ranges and trail systems and maintain habitat connectivity, thereby ensuring that the objectives of the two alternatives are realized. 

“As the draft report has conveyed so effectively, the area has a rich geologic history and high levels of biodiversity, and is an important resource for hiking, education, and recreation for an urban population that is surrounded by the concrete jungle of freeways and parking lots.

“If we don't act now to preserve these wildlife corridors, they will be gone for good and, along with them, a lot of what we love about Los Angeles."

Schiff will introduce legislation and work with the community in the next several months. He encourages public comment regarding the final report be sent to him at SchiffROTV@mail.house.gov.

CONTINUE PUBLIC SUPPORT 

The Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation (LVHF) also urges continued support of Alternative D, which adds approximately 313,000 critical acres to the SMMNRA, as opposed to the 170,000 acres in the “Selected Alternative.”

“Public support is needed to drive comments to the Congressman to bring forth legislation to expand the SMMNRA as put forth in Alternative D,” said LVHF President, Kim Lamorie.