PASADENA – U.S. Forest Service officials announced Friday (June 4th) the beginning of a five-year study of an open space that stretches from the Santa Monica range to the San Gabriel Mountains. The Rim of the Valley Corridor includes private and public land from the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susanna Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, Verdugo Mountains and San Rafael Hills.
The Forest Service wants to bring the lands under federal protection and would study the possibilities of trail development, land acquisition and preservation of wildlife corridors that connect different sections of open space in the area. Failure to preserve the lands will have negative consequences for local wildlife, as well as for outdoor recreation, said Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, whose legislation has led to the study. “These are incredible wild areas that are loosely connected corridors that allow for wildlife to pass through,” Schiff said Friday at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center. “If the areas become disconnected we lose those corridors.”
The study will start in August with a series of public meetings meant to help define the scope and ambition of the project. Improving the trail system, recreational opportunities and protecting wildlife habitat are some of the major topics that will be discussed in developing the plan. The study will cost $500,000 and will be finished in 2014, at which time it will be presented to Congress with recommendations. Though the plan could result in a new national recreation area or other Forest Service protections, it will not likely mean a new national park in L.A.’s backyard, said Jody Noiron, forest supervisor for Angeles National Forest. It will mean that the Forest Service will be looking to acquire lands from private owners who currently hold title. But the Forest Service will not use eminent domain to take land from property owners, Schiff said. “Whenever you are dealing with the Forest Service some people will always say it is a land grab,” Schiff said. “This is not a land grab … we only want to deal with willing sellers.”
Among those who are labeling it a land grab is the Washington state-based American Land Rights Association. Chuck Cushman, a spokesman for the group who grew up in Southern California, said members will be participating in the public process, opposing development of the plan. He said that he is not convinced the Forest Service will stick to its promise to avoid eminent domain. Additionally, he said, there are other people with interests in the area who could be threatened by the plan. “There are a whole bunch of people with cabins in the area, who lease the land but don’t own it,” Cushman said. “There are people with mineral rights … if the park service takes over the area all those people are at risk.”
Anthony Portantino (Assembly, D-La CaÃ±ada Flintridge) and Woody Smeck of the NPS also spoke. Yours truly and Don Bremner of the Sierra Club were present but it was a small group. Don asked about expanding the trails network. They are planning on looking for gaps, but the study is not designed to get to the detail of individual trails. Someone asked about eminent domain, as noted in the article they are not going to use it.
This study will be run exactly like the on-going San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Study. The web site is now up at: https://www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley/index.htm
The first newsletter, on the site, shows the area of the study and outlines the process. The public meetings for the first phase have not been announced yet, but will start in September. Email or letter input is also accepted.
Although this study is starting five years later than the San Gabriel one, because the Santa Monica National Recreation Area already exists I think it may progress better and has a higher chance of producing significant changes to the existing situation than the San Gabriel one.