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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Malibu Conservationist and Santa Monica Mountains Activist Leaves Legacy of Open Space

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Former Malibu resident and Santa Monica Mountains conservationist and activist Margot Feuer has died. She was 89.
Margot Elizabeth Kramer  Feuer and her husband, Stanley Feuer moved to Malibu in 1965.
Feuer quickly became involved in local conservation issues, working to oppose a proposed nuclear power plant in what is now Corral Canyon Park, and to derail plans to build a major freeway through Malibu.
Feuer was active in many Malibu environmental fights throughout the 1970s, including the battle to prevent oil drilling in the Santa Monica Bay.
She became an outspoken member of the board of the Sierra Club’s Santa Monica Mountains Task Force and the Santa Monica Mountains Trust.
Together with grassroots activists Sue Nelson and Jill Swift, Feuer launched the campaign for the creation of a National Park to protect and preserve the Santa Monica Mountains and sea shore.
Nelson, Swift and Feuer argued the case for a park in Sacramento and then brought the fight to Washington DC.
Feuer, representing the Sierra Club, testified before congress on the need for the park.
On Nov. 10, 1978, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was created by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.
The 150,000-acre area extended on paper from Point Mugu in Ventura County to Griffith Park in the heart of Los Angeles. Creating an actual, contiguous National Park would be a Herculean task for park proponents and the park was almost closed shortly after its creation.
Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt placed the SMMNRA at the top of the list for budget cuts and argued for disbanding the park.
Public outcry and key support from several influential politicians enabled the park to remain open but key land purchases had to be deferred for eight years, while real estate prices climbed.
In 1989, President Herbert Walker Bush restored funding to the beleaguered park, naming it a “top priority.”
In 1993, Feuer celebrated another SMMNRA victory, when 2300-acre Jordan Ranch in Palo Comado Canyon at the end of Chesebro Road became the single largest acquisition ever made by the SMMNRA.
Feuer had campaigned for the acquisition for several years. The ranch was purchased for $16.7 million from comedian and land speculator Bob Hope, who proposed a golf course and tract home development on the property, which featured springs; waterfalls; a 13.5-acre wetland; several species of endangered or threatened plant and animal species, a key wildlife corridor and archeological and fossil resources.
By 1995, SMMNRA comprised 70,000 acres in a complex patchwork of federal, state, county, city and conservancy lands.
In 1996, during the Clinton administration, when budget talks stalled, the park was forced to close for almost a month and funding was again eliminated.
Undeterred by the funding rollercoaster, Feuer continued to campaign for preservation and acquisition. She was a passionate advocate for preserving Ahmanson Ranch, which was slated to become a small city, and King Gillette Ranch, which was owned by Soka University and the prospective site of a massive expansion.
Feuer’s husband died in 1989 and she moved from Malibu to the Stone Canyon area of Los Angeles, but she continued to campaign for conservation, preservation and acquisition.
Feuer was a founder and leader of the park advocacy organization Save Open Space. She championed the acquisition of Ahmanson Ranch, the headwaters of Malibu Creek, which was slated to become a new city with over 3000 homes, but is now 2,650-acre Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Park.
She also championed the acquisition of 589-acre King Gillette Ranch, which was also slated for massive development.
King Gillette is the geographic heart of the mountains and is now home to the SMMNRA’'s visitor center.
Feuer had an opportunity to visit the new center just weeks before she died.
On the plaque on the wall in the visitor center is a quote from Feuer that says: "This reaffirms the need for really hanging in.”
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is home to 450 vertebrate species, as well as 25 species listed as rare, endangered or threatened. More than 1000 Chumash and Gabrielleno-Tongva archeological sites are found within the park area.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area now comprises 155,050 acres of land, including 22,000 acres owned by the federal government, 40,000 acres owned by the state and 10,000 owned by other park districts. It stretches 46 miles from the Hollywood Bowl to Point Mugu in Ventura County.

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