STATEMENT OF deTEEL PATTERSON TILLER, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR CULTURAL RESOURCES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, CONCERNING S. 347 TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR AND THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE TO CONDUCT A JOINT 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, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 

MARCH 4, 2003

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department’s views on S. 347, a bill to direct the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to conduct a joint special resources study to evaluate the suitability and feasibility of establishing the Rim of the Valley Corridor, in the Los Angeles region, as a unit of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. 

 

The Department supports this bill with the minor clarification provided in this testimony.  We believe that this study will provide a good opportunity to explore partnerships with a wide range of state, local, private, and other federal entities for the purpose of protecting and interpreting important natural and cultural resources.

 

On July 18, 2002, the Department testified on S. 2571, a similar bill that would have directed the Secretary of the Interior to study the Rim of the Valley for addition to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.  In our testimony, we recommended that the bill be amended to make the study a joint study between the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture and we suggested that the provision that established a 17-member advisory commission was unnecessary.  At the committee markup, S. 2571 was amended incorporating the department’s suggestions.  S. 347 is identical to S. 2571 as it was amended in the 107th Congress. 

 

S. 347 directs the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to conduct a joint Special Resource Study of the Rim of the Valley Corridor in Southern California.  S. 347 further requires that the study evaluate the suitability and feasibility of establishing the area as a unit of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.  The Secretaries are directed to use the criteria for study of areas for inclusion in the National Park System and to consult with appropriate State, county, and local governments.  The study is estimated to cost approximately $500,000. 

 

The National Park Service generally conducts special resource studies to evaluate the suitability and feasibility of an area to become a new unit of the National Park System.  We understand that the intent of this bill is not to establish a new park, but rather to study the Rim of the Valley as a potential addition for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.  As such, we suggest that “Special Resource Study” be replaced with “resource study” in all places where it appears in the bill.  We would be happy to work with the subcommittee staff to develop any additional clarifying language that may be required.

 

The 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 Rim of the Valley corridor surrounding the San Fernando and La Crescenta Valleys.  This 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, which provide notable recreation opportunities close to the Los Angeles basin.

 

In addition to natural and recreational opportunities, the area also includes properties found on the National Register of Historic Places.  Old stagecoach stops and images of the Wild West still exist.  Amtrak’s 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 more than 400 vertebrate species.

 

As the largest urban park area in the National Park System, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area includes 153,750 acres and provides recreational opportunities for approximately 530,000 visitors annually.  During the 25 years since the national recreation area was authorized by Congress, this unit has become a model of collaboration of many local, state, and federal public land managers, as well as many private property owners -- all working together as stewards of the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources. 

 

Recognizing the limitation of federal resources for acquiring and managing additional lands, the study would have to examine a number of alternatives for protecting significant areas of open space in the Rim of the Valley Corridor, including those that involve minimal cost to the federal government.  With the study area encompassing 491,518 acres, the study would emphasize public-private partnerships.  Given the large size and the diversity of stakeholders in the area, the study undertaken by the National Park Service would involve extensive outreach with members of the public, private landowners, and local governments.  It would likely entail extended comment periods, and extensive analysis. 

 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or any members of the subcommittee may have.