Santa Monica Mountains recreation area would grow under act

Published by Steve on

The Rim of the Valley Preservation Act was reintroduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on March 29.

Source of this article, the Thousand Oaks Acorn, April 28, 2023

A longtime priority of the congressman’s, the Rim of the Valley bill would broaden the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by adding more than 190,000 acres to the mostly coastline-wrapped federal park that stretches from Santa Monica to the Camarillo Grade.

The new park area envisioned by Rim of the Valley would push boundaries north into the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains and east into the Verdugos and San Gabriel Mountains.

Schiff first brought the legislation to the House of Representatives in 2016, with then-Sen. Barbara Boxer introducing it in the upper chamber. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris later joined as sponsors, along with Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman, Judy Chu, Julia Brownley, Ted Lieu, Nanette Barragán and Jimmy Gomez.

The bill passed the House three years ago, with bipartisan support, by a vote of 231-183. The Senate moved it through committee last session, which Schiff’s press secretary called “a welcome step forward,” but progress ended there.

“Unfortunately, from our perspective, it seemed like its committee passage ran up against the end of the session and competed with other priorities in the Senate,” the spokesperson told the Acorn.

The cost of the expansion is undetermined as the proposed acquisition includes some private property as well as public lands already owned by the taxpayers.

Schiff’s reintroduction of the proposed legislation for the current U.S. Congress means it has a further chance at reaching the Senate floor and being voted into law.

Schiff is running for U.S. Senate, to replace the retiring Feinstein.

The roots of the bill go back to a law passed in 2008, also sponsored by Schiff, which instructed the National Park Service to carry out a special resource study of the Rim of the Valley Corridor. The study area included the mountain areas that surround the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi and Conejo valleys.

The result, eight years later, was a recommendation by the park service to add a large part of those lands to the Santa Monica Mountains recreation area.

Supporters of the world’s largest urban national park will try once again for legislation that would more than double the park’s existing size.

The Rim of the Valley proposes adding protected open spaces in the Conejo Valley, Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains, in particular. No land would be swiped from the cities of Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Westlake Village or Agoura Hills.

The study recommended adding 170,000 acres to the regional Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area, which would more than double the 153,000- acre park that includes mountain and coastline areas from Santa Monica to the Camarillo Grade.

While the study only recommended 170,000 acres, the City of Santa Clarita later offered an additional 20,000 acres of its own open space to the acquisition.

The text of the bill says that expanding the park “would provide new opportunities for the (National Park Service) to serve a broad range of urban communities, including many that are underrepresented in national parks and underserved by state and local parks.”

Agoura Hills Councilmember Jeremy Wolf, who has been following the bill’s progress for years, told the Acorn he is fully supportive. He sounded optimistic about its chances.

New perspectives in ecology have heightened the importance of interconnecting habitats, Wolf said, in addition to protecting open space.

“We’ve learned that nature is more resilient than we had ever thought, but this is giving it a fighting chance by providing the room to roam that wildlife needs.

“It’s one of the pieces of good news coming out of Washington, and it’s going to be a really big deal for this region,” Wolf said.

In an earlier statement, Schiff said, “The Rim of the Valley Corridor is an area of breathtaking natural beauty, and we must preserve this pristine land for the sake of our environment, wildlife and ecosystems, and for the benefit of L.A. residents, the millions each year who visit and for generations to come.”

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was established in 1978. It is the largest urban national park in the United States.