Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and other colleagues made recommendations to the National Park Service in response to the proposed alternatives for the Rim of the Valley Corridor Special Resources Study.
"We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to protect the natural, cultural and historical resources of this diverse area, as well as expand recreational and educational opportunities for millions of park users throughout Southern California. There are so many valuable resources within the study area that are suitable additions to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, including the significant wildlife corridor linkage through the Simi Hills, the Chatsworth Reservoir, the Santa Susana Mountains range, Griffith Park, and much more," said Congressman Sherman.
Congressmen Schiff and Sherman helped pass legislation in 2008 to direct the National Park Service to conduct a special resource study of the area known as the Rim of the Valley Corridor, generally including the mountains encircling the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi, and Conejo Valleys in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.
The legislation also directed the NPS to determine whether any portion of the Rim of the Valley Corridor study area is eligible to be designated as a unit of the national park system or added to an existing national park unit (Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation); and to explore other ways that private and governmental entities can protect resources and provide more outdoor recreation opportunities.
The National Park Service will further analyze the proposed alternatives through an Environmental Impact Analysis and finalize their recommendations to the U.S. Department of the Interior and Congress in 2014. The public will have an opportunity to submit comments on the findings and recommendations of the draft report before it is finalized next year. The public can also stay involved and up-to-date with the process at www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley.
The full letter to the National Park Service is below.
February 6, 2013
National Park Service
570 W. Avenue 26, #175
Los Angeles, CA 90065
Dear Ms. Dove:
We write to provide our view of the National Park Service's ongoing Rim of the Valley Corridor Special Resources Study. We are pleased that the Study's recently released Preliminary Findings and Alternative Concepts document found the study area to be a suitable addition to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) and we have a series of recommendations to improve the alternatives in the document.
We share the Study's assessment that the study area contains nationally significant resources and would be a feasible addition to SMMNRA. The study area offers outstanding examples of geologic history, including the Transverse Ranges Province, and high levels of biodiversity, such as the rare San Fernando Valley spineflower at Laskey Mesa in the Simi Hills. The study area includes a superb example of the rare Mediterranean chaparral ecosystem. It also has enormous importance as a hiking, educational and recreational resource. These attributes and others should be protected for future generations to enjoy. Using the collaborative partnership-based park model, employed successfully by SMMNRA, will allow the boundary of SMMNRA to be expanded to include part or all of the study area and will ensure that NPS and its partners can protect natural and cultural resources in that area and provide recreational opportunities to the surrounding populations.
While it is clear that the study area is a suitable and feasible addition to the SMMNRA, the alternatives put forward in the document offer different approaches to achieving this worthwhile and critical goal. And we believe that the best approach would be to draw from the strengths of two different alternatives.
Alternatives C and D both expand the boundary of SMMNRA and would provide SMMNRA the authority to manage the new area in the same manner as the existing NRA, in partnership with existing land management agencies and organizations. But because the two alternatives have different focuses -- C on expanding recreational opportunities for urban audiences and D on promoting the long term resiliency of the natural resources within the area -- choosing only one of these alternatives would leave thousands of acres of nationally significant resources without adequate protection. The National Park Service should create a hybrid alternative that would include the boundary extensions of SMMNRA of both alternatives C and D. This hybrid alternative would provide comprehensive preservation of the region's mountain ranges and trail systems and maintain habitat connectivity, while also ensuring that the objects of the two alternatives are realized.
Alternative D also wisely recognizes the value in facilitating habitat connectivity between the Los Padres National Forest and Rim of the Valley Corridor by authorizing NPS to engage in cooperative conservation partnerships with public and private actors to the north of the study area. This Cooperative Conservation Partnership Area should remain in the hybrid alternative. A Cooperative Conservation Partnership Area should also be added to the hybrid alternative to connect the two portions of the Angeles National Forest in the Santa Clara River watershed. This inter-mountain range habitat linkage in the Angeles National Forest would ensure the preservation of this critical habitat.
Although Alternative B would not expand the SMMNRA boundary and would not provide NPS the authority to acquire or manage lands outside of the current SMMNRA boundary, it does include one worthwhile proposal that should be included in the hybrid alternative. The Alternative recommends that SMMNRA provide continuing technical assistance to a partnership of public and private landowners, organization and institutions in the region. This technical assistance could take many helpful forms -- NPS staff participating in and lending guidance to national resource surveys, education activities focused on connecting people to the resources and stories of the study area and working on Rim of the Valley Trail planning. This idea should be incorporated into the hybrid alternative so that local residents can better interact with and obtain a stronger understanding of the beauty and history of the area.
Additionally, both the Rim of the Valley Study and the San Gabriel Mountains and Watershed Special Resources Study include the western part of the Angeles National Forest. We request that that Rim of the Valley Study incorporate the findings from the San Gabriel Study, which is further along in the study process, into their analysis of this area. We further ask that that the San Gabriel Mountains in the western Angeles National Forest north of the Rim of the Valley trail are included in any future San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area, not in an expansion of the SMMNRA.
Lastly, we believe that the hybrid alternative requires direct NPS management. Only NPS has the resources and expertise needed to protect the significant natural resources in the study area, ensure habitat connectivity between adjacent tracks of federally protected land, support trail and recreation efforts, and provide critical technical assistance to enhance residents' experience with and connection to the study area. As this process moves forward, we strongly urge NPS to give full consideration to a hybrid alternative that includes the strengths of Alternatives B, C and D.