The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area would more than double in size by adding a vast area of land known as the Rim of the Valley if Congress approves a bill introduced Tuesday.
The effort to add the mountainous greenbelt has been in the works for years. A study that began about 10 years ago concluded with the adoption of a National Parks Service recommendation earlier this year. However, separate legislation is needed to make the recommendations a reality.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) introduced the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act on Tuesday in the House of Representatives. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced a version of the bill in the Senate.
The proposal adds 301 square miles of mountains bordering the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi, and Conejo valleys, onto the existing Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. The Santa Monica recreation area is about 266 square miles.
Schiff said chances for passage were good because members of Congress of both parties support adding the Rim of the Valley corridor, particularly those in neighboring districts.
Nearly half of all California residents live within a two-hour drive of the proposed new recreation area.
Giving the Parks Service the authority to manage some of the land would help keep more open space available for the region's growing population, Schiff said.
"We still enjoy this abundant wildlife with mountain lions and bears and rare ecosystems that we want to preserve and this legislation will give us a chance to do that," Schiff said.
Adding the land to the existing national recreation area gives the National Parks Service the authority to add trails and other improvements for the public. It also allows the agency to monitor wildlife, participate in conservation and recreation planning, contribute to projects that protect natural resources, and acquire land through donation, swaps or purchase from willing sellers. It would include habitat and migration corridors for mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, badgers, coyotes and deer.
A map depicting Schiff's proposal includes much of the territory the National Parks Service identified in February as its preferred option, plus more land that the Parks Service did not request but that had public support for inclusion.
Some environmentalists were dissatisfied when the Parks Service left out areas north of the Santa Clarita and Simi Valleys that connect to the Angeles and Los Padres national forests. Those areas were added back in with the version proposed by Schiff and Boxer.
“In terms of the conservation opportunities, they are certainly right on the mark, and we’re super happy that they listened and included those two areas in Santa Clarita and Simi valleys,” said Daniel Rossman of The Wilderness Society.
That new territory also takes in more of the western Santa Susanna Mountains including Happy Camp Canyon Park. It also takes in land near Highway 14 in Santa Clarita including the Cemex mining property.
The Rim of the Valley Unit would include part of the Los Angeles River and the downtown Pueblo where the city originated.
Some other landmarks within the Rim of the Valley Corridor are the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, the Michael Antonovich Regional Park west of I-5, Hansen Dam Recreation Area in Pacoima, Griffith Park in Los Angeles and the Rose Bowl and surrounding open space in Pasadena.
Oil and gas production lands have been excluded from the proposal, including the 3,600-acre Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in the foothills near Porter Ranch. The idea behind that exclusion was to avoid requiring the Parks Service to adopt new regulations concerning oil and gas lands.
The designation of national recreation area does not change the land use rights or ownership of any properties or businesses. The Parks Service manages land, but local and county governments continue to have the authority to designate land uses.