The federal government is fixin’ to buy our property, and what are you going to do about it? Thar’s a meeting on Wednesday May 6 and you may just want to ride on out and speak your mind. Ask yourself: do we need more federally protected and regulated national lands in our state? How about in our county? Do we really need the federal government to take care of our state properties? Here’s the issue in a nutshell:
Who: The Secretary of the Interior acting through the National Park Service (NPS)
What: The NPS is looking to acquire privately owned property, expand its oversight and involvement in public land use decisions, and connect and control vast areas between forests, parks, and mountain ranges. The area being studied has been named “Rim of the Valley.”
Where: Rim of the Valley includes public and private lands in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, the Los Padres National Forest, the Angeles National Forest and other state and local areas.
Why: In 2008, Congress directed the NPS to identify ways for other Federal, state, and local government agencies and private and nonprofit groups to conserve natural resources and provide more recreational areas. Even though much of the study area is already regulated and managed by government entities, the Federal Government is looking to acquire more property and more authority.
How: The NPS would either expand the boundaries of the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) to bring Rim of the Valley under federal purview, or add this area to the national park system as a new park unit.
The NPS is resuming their 2013 Rim of the Valley Corridor Study with this open forum. Input from these meetings is to be incorporated into their final report. The meeting is being held from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Conejo Recreation and Parks District Community Room, 403 W. Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks. If you prefer to comment in writing you can find more information with the mailing and email addresses at the website www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley. Deadline for comments is June 30, 2015. Following are submissions from three LPVC members in response to 2013’s draft study.
2013 Comments from Bruce Bell, Late LPVC Member:
The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 directed the National Park Service (NPS) to explore ways that private and governmental entities can protect resources and provide more outdoor recreation opportunities. Section 327(a)(2) requires a study to determine the methods and means for the protection and interpretation of this corridor by the National Park Service, other Federal, State, or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations (emphasis added).
First of all, I don’t see that private or non-profit alternatives have been considered so far. Newsletter #3 presents four preliminary alternative concepts, but these do not exhaust the alternatives. In particular, they do not include a fifth alternative, namely that private owners could, if they so desire, pursue conservation efforts independently of government agencies if there is public demand for such areas. Secondly, government at all levels already owns too much property in the West and does not manage what it has very well. Why add more area when the present area is not being well-managed? In particular, there is poor management of fires on public property. In 2003, a fire burned from Piru 10 miles across Happy Camp (part of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy) in four hours and threatened homes in Moorpark. At least two fires in Griffith Park in 1961 and 2007 burned more than one-fourth of the park. How many mores fires are we going to see burn to the sea if these public areas are expanded? Federal money would be better spent on management of fires on presently-owned property.
Third, the claim that the government will only deal with willing sellers is blatantly false or misleading. In 2003 Washington Mutual gave up on developing Ahmanson Ranch after a 10-year fight against environmentalists. About 21,000 homes had been planned on about 3,000 acres. Opposition continued even though a 1992 deal gave 10,000 acres to the National Park Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The property was sold to the state for $150 million in 2003, less than 10 percent of an estimated $2 billion value if the homes had been built. An objective observer would have a hard time concluding that Washington Mutual was a willing seller after being pushed into this deal. This is just one example of how the government coerces property owners into selling rather than deal with the expenses and time of fighting battles to preserve their constitutional property rights. Indeed, the Washington Mutual example of a company with deep pockets giving up leaves little hope that the private property rights of approximately 170,000 farms, ranches and homeowners will be respected.
Fourth, why take these properties off the tax rolls when the California state budget is already broken? The required study should also include the effects on California state finances. If private properties are converted to federal ownership, the state will lose property taxes and possibly also sales and payroll taxes. Fifth, the regions proposed for the expanded NRA are largely already protected by local parks and multiple use management of the U.S Forest Service. The study provides no reason to believe that federal control will be better than the current situation. I urge the park service to consider all of these issues in further study of this proposal and in arriving at its recommendation to Congress.
I am not in favor of the Rim of the Valley Corridor project. It is clearly a misuse of federal taxes and (congressional request notwithstanding) an intrusion to the State. I have lived in both the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County areas and know that these lands do not qualify as a nationally significant resource as they are not on a par with Yosemite, Yellowstone, or the Blue Ridge Mountains. They certainly have grandeur as do all of natureâ€™s gifts and therefore deserve our respect. But most other states have equivalent mountains too, with their own natural beauties. Just as in this study, people throughout our country enjoy equally diverse flora and fauna which are special to their area. Remnants of Native American civilization are also not unique to California.