Smart plan to protect Rim of the Valley needs support in Congress: Guest commentary (Pasadena Star-News)

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed legislation I helped write mandating that the National Park Service study the addition of hundreds of thousands of acres to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The Rim of the Valley, a vast area in the Los Angeles basin stretching through the Simi Hills and Santa Susanas, the Verdugos and on to the San Gabriel Mountains, is a critical bridge between our cities and suburbs to the spectacular wilderness beyond.

After the enactment of my legislation, the NPS conducted a five-year study on the merits of expanding the recreation area, and earlier this year released its final report to Congress and the public for their review and input.


In that report, the NPS recommends dramatically expanding the existing SMMNRA boundary to include significant portions of the study area. In fact, the report recommended doubling the size of the recreation area by adding roughly 170,000 acres to the SMMNRA, to bring the total to 323,000 acres.

To use an over-used expression, this is a huge deal.


As more areas become developed and open space diminishes, the wildlife that depend upon it are more at risk. Our goal with the Rim of the Valley legislation was simple — to ensure that all Angelenos would be able to access and use Southern California’s beautiful rivers and Mediterranean landscape, observe the multitude of animal and plant life that inhabit our area, and preserve these areas for generations to come.


This week, Sen. Barbara Boxer and I, along with a large number of our congressional colleagues from Los Angeles, took the final step toward permanent preservation of the Rim of the Valley the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act. This bill, the result of feedback from local residents, advocates, experts, proponents and opposition, will implement the boundary change and expansion of the recreation area.


First, it’s important to note what this legislation will do. It will allow for capital improvements to trails, roads and public facilities. It will allow NPS to participate in cooperative conservation and recreation planning, and efforts to monitor and study local wildlife. It will also allow NPS to acquire land through donation, exchange or purchase from willing sellers. It will allow NPS to provide technical assistance for resource protection and recreation planning and contribute financially to projects that protect natural resources.


It’s also important to note what the bill will not do. It will not allow the NPS to acquire land through eminent domain. Additionally, it will not allow the NPS to dictate how private landowners use their privately held land. The legislation, in fact, specifically precludes the use of eminent domain and leaves in place local laws and regulations. The boundaries in the bill reflect the art of the possible, and seek to ensure broad support so that we can move it through the Congress.


Of the many thousands of public comments received, the overwhelming majority urged the largest possible expansion of the park, more than tripling its size. And as much as that was my preferred alternative, it was necessary to hew closer to the NPS recommendation to assure support from the administration, and we incorporated as many modifications as possible to avoid drawing unnecessary opposition.


In a deeply divided Congress, these compromises are essential to getting things done, and I would rather have a recreation area doubled in size than a more expansive bill that goes nowhere. Congress has the power to preserve the Rim of the Valley for generations. It’s a challenge we relish, and one we must meet.


Rep. Adam Schiff, a Burbank Democrat, represents California’s 28th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He authored the Rim of the Valley Corridor Study Act.