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Location Location

Location Location 

The Santa Monica Mountains have been a destination for filmmakers and a location for filming for more than a hundred years, and movie history is an important part of the cultural heritage of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. With a little movie magic and some inventive set building, the landscape of Malibu Creek State Park—oncle Century Ranch—has doubled for Wales, Africa, Korea, and the post-apocalyptic Planet of the Apes—and that’s just for starters! Almost every canyon, cove and crag in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has starred in or had a cameo in film and television. Location, they say, is everything, and in this special place that history is remembered and preserved. Cover Art by Urs Baur.

Santa Ana winds were in the forecast, right on time for October. This first wave of wind conditions was mild, but more damaging wind events are inevitably coming as autumn progresses. Now would be a good time to check emergency plans—where is the cat carrier? Are the tires and breaks on the horse trailer still working? Are the important papers and photographs someplace where they are easy to access in an emergency? Does everyone in the family have an evacuation plan, and the number of an out-of-area friend or relative who is willing to serve as emergency contact and evacuation coordinator? It couldn’t hurt to take a little time to check all of those things, and to bookmark, the Topanga Community Emergency Preparedness website.

October brings heightened fire risk, but it is also one of the most beautiful months in this area, with warm beach days, vivid orange sunsets, and clear night skies. Here at TNT we are looking forward to the fall festival season. This weekend brings a return of the Topanga Canyon artists’ tour, this time under the auspices of Open Studios Tour. We are continuing our look at the artists participating in this year’s event on page 14 This is a great opportunity to see how local artists work.

The Topanga Film Festival is also coming up, October 19-22. Check out TNT contributor Jill Cotu’s interview with programming director Adam Noble, on page 16. TNT will be welcoming historian and columnist Jimmy P. Morgan for a live—and lively—salon on the Constitution, on October 15. Details on page 13.

In honor of the film festival, we’re delving into some of the incredible film history of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It’s yet another reminder of how our backyard national park preserves not only open space and natural resources but also human history. 

The news has been full of stories about the legacy of California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who died last week at the age of 90. She leaves a long and groundbreaking legacy as the first woman mayor of San Francisco, and the longest-serving woman in the Senate. She was also a passionate advocate for open space in her home state. 

The autumn migration of the western monarch butterfly is just beginning, but there are already orange and black butterflies on the wing. The western monarch population is found from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and as far north as southwestern Canada. In October, the butterflies begin to migrate south, away from autumn and winter frost. Some will travel as much as a thousand miles to overwinter on the California coast—a remarkable journey for so small and frail an insect. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

In the 2000s, when there was a massive push to convert a huge swath of the Mojave desert to solar power plants, Senator Feinstein pushed back. In 2009, she introduced legislation to protect a million square miles of the desert. She kept the pressure up, and in 2016, President Barack Obama designated three new national monuments, protecting 1.8 million acres of the Mojave Desert, land that is home to endangered species like the desert tortoise and the increasingly imperiled Joshua tree, land that is sacred to Native American tribes, and that preserves the stories of ancient lives in thousands of petroglyph sites. Not everyone appreciates the beauty and ecological significance of the desert. Dianne Feinstein did.

At the time of her death, legislation she co-authored that proposes adding the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was still pending. The senate bill was sent to the floor of the Senate in July, after being approved in committee. It remains to see if it will pass, but it would be a worthy legacy for a remarkable woman. 

Governor Gavin Newsom has selected Laphonza Butler to fill Feinstein’s seat until the 2024 election. She is the president of the political activism organization Emily’s List, and a passionate advocate for equality and abortion rights who will be the first openly LGBTQ individual to represent California in the Senate. We hope she will also be a champion for the environment who will advocate for Feinstein’s Rim of the Valley legislation to pass—it represents the last best chance for the survival of wildlife like the mountain lions of the Santa Monica Mountains, but also for the health—physical and mental—of millions of Angelenos. Having access to nature is a social justice issue as well as a conservation goal. 

And speaking of open space and conservation goals, this week, at its October board meeting, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority board will be discussing acquiring 38.2 acres in Topanga. That may not seem like a lot, but this parcel includes a much-loved local trail segment that runs along the watershed divide between Topanga Canyon and its Greenleaf Canyon tributary. For everyone who loves to walk here, and for all of the wildlife that makes this corner of the canyon its home, ensuring that this land remains open space is important. It might be small, but this is still an essential piece in the patchwork quilt that is the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Stay safe, be well. Happy October!

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