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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Expansion of Santa Monica Mountains NRA Boundaries May Prove to Be Feasible

•  Existing Parks or Vast Tracks of Open Space Are Being Studied as Vision of a Super National Recreation Area Takes Form

BY BILL KOENEKER

Despite preliminary findings that the Rim of the Valley Corridor Study area comprised of the Simi Hills, Santa Susana Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains contains nationally significant natural and cultural \resources, the National Park Service in a preliminary finding states “that the creation of a new national park unit is not feasible due to cost and operational efficiencies.”
Halfway through the study, the NPS states, “Many of the significant resources within the study area expand on the national significance of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and provide habitat connectivity essential for the long-term productivity of the significant resources with the Santa Monica Mountains thus warranting physical connection to the SMMNRA boundary and a seamless management approach. A separate unit would also be more costly than expanding existing park operations.”
Congress directed the NPS to determine whether any portion of the Rim of the Valley Corridor study area is eligible to be designated as a unit of the national park system or added to an existing national park unit such as the SMMNRA and to explore other ways that private and governmental entities can protect resources and provide more outdoor recreation opportunities.
The resource study started in 2010.
During that time more that 400 individuals have attended public meetings and the study team has received more than 2000 written comments on the study approach, resources and scope and size of the study area.
“Because a new park unit is found not to be feasible, the need for direct NPS management of a park designation need not be evaluated,” the preliminary study suggests.
“Inclusion of study area resources in a boundary adjustment to SMMNRA would be more cost effective and provide for greater operational efficiency.”
Consequently, it seems the efforts of the study will lend themselves to further analysis of alternatives.
“Boundary adjustments within [the study area] would provide more opportunities to ensure long-term protection of nationally significant plans and wildlife within SMMNRA.”
Alternative A is the continuation of current management with no further action taken. “This alternative assumes that the current programs and policies of existing federal, sate, local and non-profit organizations would continuje at existing levels and current conditions and trends would conitue,” the study document states.
Alternative B is what is called a cooperative conservation partnership. “There would be no new national park unit or boundary adjustment to SMMNRA. Congress would authorize he NRA to lead a partnership of public and private landowners, organizations, institutions to protect and expand regional open spaces in the rim of the Valley corrior area,” the document goes on to state. “The partnership would explore  collaborative means for establishing an interconnected system of parks, habitats and open spaces, connecting urban neighborhoods and surrounding mountains.”
Alternative C calls for making SMMNRA boundary adjustment called connecting urban parks.
“The boundary adjustment includes portions of the study area of the Los Angeles region, including the mountains surrounding he San Fernando and La Crescenta valleys and the Los Angeles river and Arroyo Seco corridors. [It] also includes Hansen Dam, Sepulveda Basin, Los Encinos State park, Debs Park and El Pueblo de Los Angeles.”
Alternative D is described as a boundary adjustment connecting natural habitat. “This alternative would encompass key landscape linkage and core habitat areas that connect he large natural areas of SMMNRA, he Los Padres National Forest, the Angeles National Forest and state and local habitat areas to promote he long term resiliency of the natural resources,” the study states. “SMMNRA would have the authority to manage the new area in the same manner as the existing NRA, in partnership with existing land management organizations and agencies.”
The next steps for the study team during the next two years includes completing an Environmental Impact Analysis or EIA during 2013.
The NPS should be ready to present to the public a draft EIA for scrutiny sometime in early 2014. There will be opportunities for public comment on the draft before it is finalized. The NPS will host public meetings and solicit comments on the draft EIA.
The final report will include a recommendation for a preferred management option. “If NPS involvement is recommended, implementation would require further Congressional action,” the study concludes.

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