A House and Senate conference committee Wednesday approved $5 million to expand national park holdings in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area during the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
The appropriation is $1 million above the 1994 total and as much as park supporters dared hope for. Conferees, who had to harmonize a House appropriation of $5 million with a Senate allotment of $2 million, approved the higher figure rather than split the difference.
A spokeswoman at national recreation area headquarters in Agoura applauded the decision, as did Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills), sponsor of the 1978 bill that established the mountain park.
"I am very gratified that we were able to convince other members of Congress to put a priority on protecting natural resources in the Santa Monicas," Beilenson said in a prepared statement.
Administered by the National Park Service, the recreation area covers 150,000 acres from the western edge of Griffith Park in Los Angeles to Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County.
A mosaic of private lands and public holdings, it includes several large state parks and beaches, and about 21,000 acres of National Park Service properties. Plans call for the agency ultimately to acquire 35,000 acres.
Wednesday's appropriation still must be approved by the full House and Senate, but that is considered a formality.
Although an increase over last year, the $5 million is well below the level of some years past. From fiscal 1989 through 1993, for example, the Santa Monicas park never got less than $11 million.
However, the $5 million is 10% of the $50 million approved for expansion of all national parks and monuments, according to an aide to the House interior subcommittee.
Only Saguaro National Monument in Arizona got more--$6 million--than the Santa Monicas park, the aide said. Everglades National Park also received $5 million.