06.15.16

New Rim of the Valley bill could add a nearly 200,000-acre greenbelt around Los Angeles (Los Angeles Daily News)

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area could soon double in size to link a vast chain of hills surrounding the Conejo, Crescenta, San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys, according to a federal bill introduced Tuesday.

The Rim of the Valley Corridor would add 193,000 acres of wild lands, parks and historic sites, including a swath along the Los Angeles River.

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,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, who introduced the legislation, in a statement. “And our bill would help protect these lands for generations to come.”

Hatched from a study initiated by the Valley congressman eight years ago, the Valley Corridor Preservation Act was introduced to the House on Tuesday. A similar bill by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will appear in the Senate next week.

Proponents say expanding the 153,000-acre recreation area that now stretches from Naval Base Ventura County to Santa Monica would allow the National Park Service to better protect natural resources around one of the nation’s most densely populated regions.

Residents from park-poor neighborhoods would also have better access to open space and , more recreational opportunities.

“The Santa Monica Mountains are one of California’s greatest treasures,” Boxer said. “I am proud to join Congressman Schiff in introducing this bill.”

An expanded recreation area would include heights across the Simi Hills, Santa Monica, Conejo, Santa Susana, Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains. This includes wildlife habitat from deer to mountain lions and endangered species like the California red-legged frog.

It would also include lowlands from the Arroyo Seco to Griffith Park, Hansen Dam Recreation Area, Sepulveda Basin and El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the birthplace of the city.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area expansion would allow the parks service to add trails, roads and facilities, monitor wildlife, pay to protect natural resources, conduct conservation and recreation planning and acquire land through donations or exchange., .

At the same time, according to Schiff, a Rim of the Valley would respect private property rights and existing land use authorities while not putting additional restrictions on property owners. The bill would not allow for land grabs though eminent domain.

It’s passage could not be more timely for Los Angeles, he said.

“As more of this area is developed and open space diminishes, the wildlife it supports is increasingly at risk,” Schiff said. “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.”