New Assessment Identifies Key Threats Facing California's Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   April 8, 2008
Contact:   Lindsay Bartsh, Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, 415-989-9921 x22


New Assessment Identifies Key Threats Facing California's Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Development on Privately Held Land Within the National Park Poses Significant Threats

Los Angeles, Calif.– Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the world’s largest urban national park, a biodiversity hotspot that is considered by many to be the finest example of a Mediterranean ecosystem in the National Park System. But according to a report issued today by the nation’s leading voice for the national parks, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), thousands of acres of privately held land within the park are increasingly being used for residential development and agricultural operations, both of which threaten the ecological integrity of this national park.

The recreation area has an estimated $62-million worth of privately held land within park boundaries that needs to be acquired. But without sufficient federal funding, the Park Service cannot acquire the 25,000 acres of privately held, undeveloped land within the park that the Park Service has identified it needs in order to protect watersheds, wildlife corridors and sensitive habitat areas for more than 1,000 native plant and 450 animal species. Federal funding to purchase these private lands in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has been unavailable since 2000, and approximately 1,300 acres of private lands within the park are lost to development annually. 

“If the current rate of development continues, all 70,000 acres of private lands within the park's boundaries will be developed by 2062,” said Ron Sundergill, NPCA's pacific regional director. “This will fragment sensitive habitat for large carnivores such as bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions, whose survival in the park is already in jeopardy.”

Tight park budgets also prevent the Park Service from properly managing Santa Monica Mountain's natural features and archaeological treasures, and cause it to rely on volunteers to perform tasks that Park Service staff should be doing, such as patrolling the park and staffing the visitor center, but doesn't have the resources to do. The recreation area's base budget has declined by 10 percent annually in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1980, leading to cuts in educational programs for schools and park maintenance.

Cultural resources at the park are in fair condition, with development on private land the biggest threat to archeological artifacts and sites. Approximately 1,000 sites exist within park boundaries, yet only 218 are on land owned by the National Park Service.

Significant funding increases for paid staff, research, maintenance, and land acquisition are also needed to adequately protect the park's watersheds, plants, wildlife, and archaeological sites, NPCA says in its Center for State of the Parks report. Funds are also required to continue work to establish 27 eligible park sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The Park Service needs an infusion of financial support from Congress and the Administration in order to carry out its mission of preserving and protecting this park while providing enjoyment and educational opportunities for residents of the greater Los Angeles area,” continued Sundergill.

Sundergill said that proposed legislation such as America's Historical and Natural Legacy Study Act (H.R. 3998), which was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would also help. If passed by the U.S. Senate, the Park Service would be authorized to study the feasibility of significantly expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, potentially doubling its size, and providing additional habitat for wildlife and recreation opportunities for visitors.

NPCA launched the landmark Center for State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. To download the full report, please click here

Since 1919, the nonpartisan, nonprofit NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 340,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.

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