Santa Monica Mountains: A precious community treasure 

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Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

New federal funding will be used by MRCA to preserve an area between Latigo and Solstice Canyons

By Barbara Burke 

Special to The Malibu Times

There are many elements and opportunities that factor into defining what makes for a healthy, prosperous community, and for many people in Malibu, one factor that is of paramount importance is having open space such as parks and hiking trails for recreation as well as for preserving precious habitats and ecosystems. 

Thus, when I recently received Congressman Brad Sherman’s newsletter and discovered that in its most recent budget deal, the Congress allocated $963,000 to fund the acquisition of private lands in the Santa Monica Mountains, I needed to find out the details.

“This funding will be used by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) to acquire properties to increase the amount of preserved habitat along the coastal slope of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) between Latigo Canyon and Solstice Canyon,” Sherman stated. “This project focuses on purchasing private parcel acquisitions on the west flank of the National Park Service’s Solstice Canyon Unit to protect open space and to incrementally ensure wildlife movement potential to MRCA parklands in Latigo Canyon.”

Many Malibuites reading this information may well be exasperated at the mention of MRCA as they believe that Joe Edmiston, who is the executive director of both MRCA and of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, spends a lot of time — and money — acquiring private land, ostensibly to foster the public’s access to enjoy the Malibu coastline and the Santa Monica Mountains, but then failing, some say abysmally, to ensure that the acquired parcels are properly maintained and operated. 

Other longtime locals characterize Edmiston as “controversial but highly effective,” as did the renowned and talented local journalist, author, and historian Suzanne Guldimann in her article entitled, “Imagine a World Without SMMNRA,” that was published in the Topanga New Times on Sept. 8, 2023.  As with all brilliant works penned by Guldimann, the piece is well worth a careful read as it recounts local environmental advocates’ arduous, tenacious, laudable, and intransigent battles against developer after developer after developer to thwart overdevelopment of the precious Santa Monica Mountains.   

As Guldimann victoriously notes, the SMMNRA is now spread across 153,250 acres — and growing — and it “encompasses 26 zip codes in two counties on the edge of one of the most densely populated areas in the country.”

For his part, Sherman opines, “The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area stands as America’s largest urban national park, providing a variety of outdoor activities and tremendous scenic views for millions of visitors. It’s critical that we work to preserve sensitive habitat and recreational trails in this treasured national park.”

Critical indeed.  

Only time will tell whether Edmiston and his team will, to coin a phrase uttered by Benjamin Franklin, manage “to keep” the sanctuary that is SMMNRA, both a locals’ and visitors’ sanctuary that preserves irreplaceable ecosystems and habitats for innumerable species of wildlife, flora, and fauna as well as for we humans who are both blessed and honored to live here.

Thesis: 

QUESTION 2: “I see that your newsletter states that Congressman Sherman has, over the years, garnered +$20 million to protect the SM Mountains — do you have any background information and perhaps a quote from the Congressman about how precious the SM Mountains are?”

Congressman Sherman: “The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area stands as America’s largest urban national park, providing a variety of outdoor activities and tremendous scenic views for millions of visitors. It’s critical that we work to preserve sensitive habitat and recreational trails in this treasured national park.

“That’s why during my time in Congress, I’ve taken the lead in securing over $20 million in federal funds to acquire and preserve critical open space and complete the Santa Monica Mountains’ 65-mile Backbone Trail. Over half of these amounts were secured the last time the mountains were in my district in 1997-2002. I am fortunate that the redistricting commission put Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains back in my district effective 2023.

“As such, I have been a consistent supporter of federal funding across U.S. agencies that support the 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails — collectively referred to as the National Trail System — as well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF), to protect natural resources in California and across the U.S. As a result of my fervent advocacy, the National Park Service used LWCF funds to acquire 45 acres of land beside the Backbone Trail to expand recreational opportunities, ensure the continued preservation of the Santa Monica Mountains, and maintain its beautiful scenery.

“I have also worked for decades to support a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway, including helping to introduce and pass into law legislation which adjusted the boundaries of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to include that corridor. In 2022, I joined Governor Gavin Newsom and others in celebrating the groundbreaking of the Wallis Annenberg Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing.

“Recently, I joined Congressman Adam Schiff and others in introducing the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act which would expand the boundaries of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to include the area known as the Rim of the Valley Corridor. This would allow for improved preservation and recreational opportunities. 

“I will continue to work to pass this important legislation and keep fighting to preserve and protect the Santa Monica Mountains — an environmental jewel of Southern California and the United States.”