SANTA MONICA—Congress members for the state of California have presented a bill that will double the size of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) in an effort to accommodate park accessibility and protect Southern California’s iconic wildlife.
Rep. Adam Schiff and U.S. Sen. Barbara Box are sponsoring a bill they introduced on Tuesday, June 14, the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, which proposes to expand SMMNRA by 193,000 acres – this would stretch the SMMNRA from the Simi Hills through Santa Susannas, through the Verdugos and onto the San Gabriel Mountains.
Schiff introduced the bill in 2008 and the National Park Service has since conducted a thorough study regarding the project’s feasibility, while considering thousands of comments from the public – their findings were published in February 2016.
The newly preserved land would link a chain of hills surrounding the Conejo, Crescenta, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, and Simi valleys. It would additionally include lowlands from the Arroya Seco to Griffith Park, Hansen Dam Recreation Area, Sepulveda Basin and the birthplace of the city, El Pueblo de Los Angeles.
Over 51 percent of Los Angeles residents are considered “park-poor” according to Schiff and Boxer, meaning, more than half of Los Angeles residents live more than half a mile from the nearest park, many of which are difficult to access or in disrepair.
The Rim of the Valley Corridor Act would more than double the size of the SMMNRA, adding 193,000 acres to the current 153,000 acres, totaling a national recreation area of 346,000 acres.
The vast expansion would make Southern California’s wilderness more accessible to Los Angeles residents alike, serving as a bridge between cities and suburbs into wildlife.
The bill is aimed to promote an appreciation for the area’s landscape and the animal and plant life that inhabit it, like the mountain lion, bobcat, fox, badger, coyote, and deer, as well as endangered species, like the California red-legged frog.
“The Rim of the Valley is the critical bridge between the urban city centers and suburbs in the Los Angeles basin and the spectacular wilderness beyond, and our bill would help protect these lands for generations to come,” said Rep. Schiff in a statement. “As more of this area is developed and open space diminishes, the wildlife it supports is increasingly at risk. Congress has the power to preserve the Rim of the Valley for generations to come, but we must act quickly, or the opportunity will be gone,” he added.
The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act would additionally grant the National Park Service the authority to: acquire land through donation, exchange, or purchase from a willing seller; add trails, roads, and other facilities at their discretion; monitor and study the area’s wildlife and ecosystems; participate in and provide technical assistance for cooperative conservation and recreation planning; help fund projects that protect important natural resources; and ultimately, directly manage National Park Service land.
The bill would not allow the National Park Service to: engage in land acquisition through eminent domain, put additional restrictions on property owners, or dictate how private landowners use their privately held land.
Boxer said in a statement, “I am proud to join Congressman Schiff in introducing this bill, which will protect an additional 193,000 acres of wild and beautiful lands in the Rim of the Valley Corridor for current and future generations to enjoy.”