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SMMNRA Turns 45

SMMNRA Turns 45 

The legislation that created the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on November 10, 1978, but the fight to build and maintain this one-of-a-kind national park was only just beginning. Join TNT for a 45th anniversary celebration of the people and determination that made this park possible. Image vintage postcard c. 1920s. Cover design by Urs Baur

It may feel like summer, but change is in the air. The annual autumn bird migration is already underway. Millions of migrants are on the wing, guided by stars and instinct, drawn south towards warmth and away from the threat of winter’s cold. Topanga’s night time temperatures dropped down into the fifties for the first time in weeks, sending residents in pursuit of blankets and jackets for a few nights, spangling spiderwebs with dew, replacing the sauna-like tropical feel of the morning air with a bracing chill that whispers of autumn. It isn’t fall yet—more hot weather is right around the corner—but monsoon season is winding down in the eastern Pacific, and so is summer.

As we head towards autumn a major milestone is coming up. On November 10, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation that created the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. We are celebrating the 45th anniversary of the SMMNRA with an in depth look at the history of our still evolving national park, and the Topanga community’s role in helping to create it. It’s a remarkable story, one that deserves to be documented, remembered, and celebrated. 

The conservation community is hoping that, as we reach this milestone, we will finally achieve another. In July of this year, the Rim of the Valley Expansion Act was approved by committee and advanced to the floor of the Senate. This legislation would add the Rim of the Valley to the SMMNRA, doubling the size of the National Recreation Area, establishing a ring of open space around much of the greater Los Angeles basin, and preserving habitat, wildlife corridors, as well as recreation opportunities. Watch this space.

Southern California’s summer monsoon season usually peaks in August and begins to wind down in September. This year, it’s going out in a blaze of dramatic intensity, with tropical levels of humidity, wild waves and coastal flooding at the beach, and dazzling orange sunsets. Look for tropical storm Jova, currently brewing south of Baja, to bring more meteorological drama next week. The chance that this system will bring rain to Southern California is currently only 10 percent, but odds are high it will bring more humidity and the potential for a glorious summer sunset or two. This vivid orange sunset was photographed at Thornhill Broome State Beach, at the far western end of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, in Ventura County. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

There is a good reminder of why wildlife corridors and contiguous open space are essential in the news right now. California wildlife officials have confirmed a new gray wolf pack in Tulare County in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Gray wolves were spotted in Sequoia in July—it was the first time in more than a century that wolves have traveled so far south. Their return to California and their travels through the mountains would not be possible without the extensive network of open space and public lands in the Sierras. Their presence has raised hopes that this keystone species may successfully make a comeback in a state where they have been extirpated for a hundred years.

Wolves are unlikely to ever make their way to the Santa Monica Mountains, but having a statewide network of wildlife corridors and contiguous open space ensures that all wildlife has a chance at continued survival. 

There is exciting news this week about another long-sought major conservation project. On August 25, following years of input from tribal nations, state and federal agencies, Indigenous communities, and the public, NOAA released the official proposal to designate a 5,617-square-mile area off the coast of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in Central California as Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. 

The proposed boundary for the new sanctuary would include 134 miles of coastline, from Hazard Canyon Reef, south of Morro Bay, to an area south of Dos Pueblos Canyon on the Gaviota coast. 

This is the first ever Indigenous-led nomination for a national marine sanctuary. It reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to recognizing and respecting tribal nations, and working to preserve 30 percent of America’s land and water resources by 2030, the 30×30 Initiative. 

For the Chumash community whose ancestors have lived on the California coast for more than 10,000 years, recognition, respect, and the opportunity to finally reclaim a leadership role in managing their own resources and sacred sites is long overdue. A detailed description of the proposed sanctuary, as well as additional information about opportunities to provide public comment, can be found at:

Closer to home, autumn brings a host of exciting events. Topanga’s Open Studios Tour returns in October, and so does the Topanga Film Festival—two highlights of the year for local residents. Here at TNT, we will be resuming our Salon Series this month, with a special evening with life coach Olivia Pool on September 21—learn more on page 8. And we are delighted to announce that TNT historian Jimmy P. Morgan will be joining us for a live event in October. It’s going to be great!

Stay safe, be well. See you soon.

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