Part 1. By Wendy Langhans
The Greenbelt is the area that separates the Santa Clarita Valley from the San Fernando Valley. For a number of reasons, it is an open space of state-wide significance.
It contains the wildlife corridor between the San Gabriel and the Santa Susana Mountains.
It is part of the upper watershed for both the Los Angeles River and the Santa Clara River.
It is part of California history; for example, Beale’s Cut has been designated a California Point of Historic Interest.
It provides an important natural buffer between the Los Angles megalopolis and the growing Santa Clarita Valley.
Because the population of northern LA County expected to grow to 1.18 million by 2030, the portion of the Greenbelt adjacent to the I-5 and SR 14 has become attractive to developers. The fate of the Greenbelt is “in play”.
For the next few weeks, I want to write about some of the proposed developments in order to help the citizens of Santa Clarita understand what is at stake ecologically in the Greenbelt. This week we’ll look at wildlife corridors, specifically the portion between the Newhall Wedge and the Santa Clarita Woodlands. The Newhall wedge is the area between the I-5 and SR 14. Santa Clarita Woodlands consists of the Towsley, Pico, East and Rice Canyons, as well as the Michael D. Antonovich Open Space.
Wildlife corridors have been defined as “…avenues along which ranging animals can travel, plants can propagate, genetic interchange can occur, populations can move in response to environmental changes and natural disasters and threatened species can be replenished from other areas.” They are vital to the health of all our wildland in Southern California. We currently have a viable wildlife corridor from the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains through the Newhall Wedge and across I-5 into the Santa Clarita Woodlands and from there to the rest of the Santa Susana Mountains. Any break along that corridor would
compromise the viability of the entire corridor. Piecemeal development can have regional repercussions.
The 555 -acre Las Lomas development is proposed for the eastern side of the I-5, between Calgrove and Hwy 14. This $2 billion project would consist of about 5,800 residences and over 2.5 million feet of commercial, retail and civic space.
This area contains 30% of the available habitat area within the Newhall Wedge, that area between the I-5 and SR 14 , and is critical to the ecological viability of the wildlife corridor between the San Gabriel' and the Santa Susana mountains. We need to provide a critical mass of permanently protected habitat for the mule deer, bobcat, grey fox, American badger and long-tailed weasel. In addition, we need to preserve the Gavin-The Old Road underpass and Weldon Canyon overpass to maintain wildlife access.
Gates-King Industrial Project
This 508-acre industrial project, located between Pine Street and the Sierra Highway, has already been approved. Like Las Lomas, Gate-King is also within the Newhall Wedge. Two hundred acres of open space will be donated to the City of Santa Clarita, but to maintain viability of the inter-mountain wildlife linkage, a minimum 2,500-foot-wide unbroken swath of habitat must pass through both Gate-King and Las Lomas. This would connect the open space to the east and the Weldon Canyon overpass to the west.
What you can do.
There is currently a ballot measure before the voters in the City of Santa Clarita to create an Open Space Preservation District, which would provide funding to purchase additional open space in the Greenbelt and increase the likelihood of receiving matching fund from other government agencies. In the Engineer’s report, the City has identified 5 key areas for potential acquisition that support the Greenbelt’s key ecological functions. That is one of many reasons why the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy supports the measure.
As citizens, you can also attend county and city planning meetings, to encourage ecologically sound and enlightened decision making. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;… whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
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