STATEMENT OF DURAND JONES, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, CONCERNING S. 2571 TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONDUCT A SPECIAL RESOURCES STUDY TO EVALUATE THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING THE RIM OF THE VALLEY CORRIDOR AS A UNIT OF THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL RECREATION AREA.

 

July 18, 2002

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Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Departmentís views on this bill to study the Rim of the Valley in the Los Angeles region. S. 2571 directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a Special Resource Study to evaluate the suitability and feasibility of establishing the Rim of the Valley Corridor as a unit of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

 

The Department does not oppose this bill.However, because the study area includes a significant amount of U.S. Forest Service lands, we believe that the bill should be amended to authorize a joint study with the Department of Agriculture.The Department did not request additional funding for this study in Fiscal Years 2003.We believe that any funding requested should be directed towards completing previously authorized studies.Presently, there are 34 studies pending, of which we expect to transmit 4 to Congress by the end of 2002.To meet the Presidentís Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we must continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System.Thus, we have concerns about adding new funding requirements for new park units, national trails, wild and scenic rivers or heritage areas at the same time that we are trying to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog.As such, the Department will identify all acquisition, one time and operational costs of the proposed site.At this time, those costs are unknown.

 

Senator Boxer also has introduced S. 1865, a bill to evaluate and study the suitability and feasibility of nearby lower Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River Watersheds.These bills affect nearly adjacent territories in the Los Angeles Basin and affect nearly identical large constituencies.As any study would include a public involvement component, combining the planning effort to evaluate both areas would not only be less confusing to the public but also more cost-effective for the government.Since a study of the Rim of the Valley is estimated to cost approximately $500,000 there could be considerable efficiencies gained by combining and narrowing the focus of these two proposed studies.

 

A combined study would assess habitat quality, access to urban open space, low impact recreation and educational uses, wildlife and habitat restoration and protection and watershed improvements along the rivers and watersheds as well as the Rim of the Valley corridor surrounding the San Fernando and La Crescenta Valleys.This latter corridor consists of portions of the Santa Monica Mountains , Santa Susanna Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills and the connector to Los Padres, Angeles, and San Bernardino National Forests.

 

Properties on the National Register of Historic Places are found within this area.Old stagecoach stops and images of the Wild West still exist.The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is located within the Simi Hills.Amtrakís Coast Starlight line travels past many of these rich cultural and natural motifs. The area supports a diverse system of plants and animals, including 26 distinct plant communities and over 400 vertebrate species.

 

The National Park Service has some familiarity with this region and watersheds.Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area provides protection for 153,750 acres while providing recreational opportunities for approximately 530,000 visitors annually.††

 

A study would outline public-private partnerships, which are core to preserving large tracts of open space such as are included in this study and which have been successful in the protection of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area since it was authorized 25 years ago.

 

The Department feels that the provision in S. 2571 that establishes a 17-member advisory commission is unnecessary.Any Special Resource Study undertaken by the National Park Service will entail extensive public outreach with members of the public and local governments, extended comment periods, and more complex analyses because issues and options in a large, urban area with such a diverse and extensive group of stakeholders at all levels of government would be considered.

 

This concludes my testimony.Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this issue and I would be willing to answer any questions you may have on the issue.