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Cut in Conservancy Budget Urged : Parkland: Action would divert money from Santa Monica Mountains agency to create funding for wildlife protection as required by Proposition 117.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Assembly subcommittee on Thursday recommended that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy budget for parkland acquisition be cut by $1 million.

Joseph T. Edmiston, the conservancy’s executive director, predicted that if the Legislature goes along with the recommendation, his agency’s plans for about five projects, including trails in Malibu Canyon and improvements in Topanga Canyon, would be stymied.

The action of the ways and means subcommittee was prompted by the passage Tuesday of Proposition 117, the Wildlife Protection Act of 1990, which requires spending $30 million annually over the next 30 years to buy and restore wildlife habitats. Under the initiative, the conservancy is expected to receive $10 million annually for five years.

To obtain new funds for wildlife protection as required by Proposition 117, however, the Legislature must move quickly to redirect funds from existing environmental programs and the state’s general fund.

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As a first step, the ways and means subcommittee voted 4 to 0 to redirect $14 million from four existing environmental programs, including $1 million from the 1988 Park Bond Act the conservancy planned to earmark for park programs.

“What they’ve done is stolen park improvement money and given it to wildlife habitat,” Edmiston said.

Alan Lind, a ways and means consultant, said the subcommittee was not singling out the conservancy for cuts in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Instead, he said, Proposition 117 is forcing legislators to channel environmental funds into habitat conservation.

“We have a solution that minimizes disruption to ongoing programs. . . . The $1 million Santa Monica is being asked to give up is a small price to pay,” Lind said.

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Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Los Angeles), who represents parts of the Santa Monica Mountains, questioned the legality of the subcommittee action, vowing to lobby the full Ways and Means Committee to reverse the decision. But, he acknowledged, “it’s going to take a miraculous effort.”

The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee on Thursday sent the issue to the joint Assembly-Senate budget conference committee, which will begin meeting soon to hammer out the state’s 1990-91 spending plan.

Since the conservancy was formed in 1980, it has spent $69 million to purchase parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains. A 1988 parkland bond act set aside $30 million for the conservancy, which has about $4 million left over, Edmiston said.


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