Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Earns Kudos from 'Friends' as It Battles Sacramento Bean Counters
• Email Campaign Touts Acreage Acquired by Group
Conservation and environmental interests' email addresses were bombarded with multiple messages lauding the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for having stood up to accountants for the state and showing them that it acquired more acreage for the public than they thought, thereby, according to the SMMC, proving its merits and its prudent use of funding.
SMMC's executive director, Joe Edmiston, wrote in the email that started the chain reaction, "Our friends in the Department of Finance, pouring over everything Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy does, as is their obligation, thought they had us. Your acreage saved numbers? Prove it, they demanded, looking over their green eye shades from crowded cubicles on "L" Street, where the only nature preserved is on screen savers."
Edmiston continued in his email, "So [SMMC] Chief Deputy Director Rorie Skei added it up once more, and Finance was right. We haven't saved 65,000 acres, the real number is 69,000 acres acquired, funded, or partnered by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy since opening our doors in 1980."
A gleeful Edmiston, who appears to relish nothing more than hoisting his critics on their own petard, phrased his gloat, "Yep, [the finance people] got us! We have under-reported success."
Amplifying further, the SMMC honcho said, "There is no special credit we can claim, after all we've been around for a long time—second only to the Coastal Conservancy, so our numbers are high, but the success of all the California Conservancies needs to be heralded."
He added, "The measure of success isn't necessarily numbers, but quality, and in that our sister agencies may have excelled us in terms of habitat, critical access, endangered species protection, and so much more."
In terms of its impact on state politics and public policy, Edmiston concluded, "The point of this message is that with financial metrics so dominating discourse, and with folks in Sacramento always at the ready to wield their sharp pencils, the conservation community must continue to acknowledge, indeed trumpet, the qualitative contribution of the state conservancies to California's natural and 'human' heritage."
After receiving the email from the SMMC, the National Park Service and a number of environmental support groups continued to round-robin the message.
Woody Smeck, the superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area added, "There's another metric that's often overlooked—the number of people served per acre. I suspect the Conservancy is at or near the top."
Smeck added, "69,000 acres is impressive by any measure —and the Conservancy team is due all the credit."
Longtime enviro-activist David Brown's addition was to ask, "How many acres of parkland has the Department of Finance saved since 1980?" He added, "It might be useful sometime to tally up the amount of preserved park acreage per capita in the Los Angeles region today versus the amount that existed prior to 1980—and how much of the increased acreage is due to the work of the Conservancy. Where would we be now if we had relied solely on state parks to remedy the incredible deficiency in park acreage that existed in the zone prior to 1980?"