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San Fernando Valley : PARKS DROUGHT

There used to be certain things one could count on in the wilds of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: Flowers would bloom, wildlife would breed and bundles of expansion money would arrive from Capitol Hill.

This year, however, Uncle Sam is proving to be far more unpredictable than Mother Nature. For the first time in more than a decade, the budget proposals under consideration in Congress set aside no expansion money for the Santa Monica Mountains park, an area that has grown substantially since the park’s creation in 1978. The slash in funding is a remarkable turnaround for a park sy s tem that once led the nation in its appropriations, with a total of $62 million coming in during the five years from 1989 to 1993.

It also raises the prospect that the sprawling park system may have grown roughly as big as it’s going to get.

“I think the danger is that as the federal government is downsized, urban parks could become the easy target,” said Dave Brown, conservation chairman of the Sierra Club’s Santa Monica Mountains Task Force, who traveled to Washington recently to monitor the budget picture.

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“In the squeeze to reduce the budget, we are facing a problem.”

When next year’s federal budget comes from the printers in the coming months, lawmakers say, it will not have a cent designated to buy any more of the costly land surrounding the recreation area, which extends 43 miles from Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County to Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.


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