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House OK's funds for Gaviota study

11/19/99 By MELINDA BURNS
NEWS-PRESS SENIOR WRITER

mburns@newspress.com

  A study to determine whether the Gaviota coast could qualify for protection as some kind of national park was authorized by the U.S.House of Representatives Thursday. The House approved $75,000 for the Gaviota study as part of an omnibus appropriations bill, and now the U.S. Senate must consider it.

The total cost of the study will be $150,000. The County of Santa Barbara,Goleta Valley Land Trust and Packard Foundation are providing $75,000 in matching funds.

The U.S. Department of the Interior will examine the natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources of the coast from Point Sal in the North County to Coal Oil Point at the western boundary of Goleta, to determine whether the area is suitable for inclusion in the National Park Service system.

The boundaries of the study will include the Vandenberg Air Force Base in the north; the Bixby Ranch at Point Conception; and all the cattle and avocado ranches along the coast from Gaviota to Coal Oil Point, between the mountain ridges and the beach.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, had been lobbying for some time for legislation that would protect the Gaviota coast from development. Local nonprofit groups working for the preservation include the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and the Environmental Defense Center.

"We have a world-class coastline right in our back yard, and this study will help determine the best way to protect its cultural and historical significance,"Capps said. "As farming and ranching become increasingly threatened by urban sprawl, this study is a good first step toward preserving the Central Coast's environment and strong agricultural heritage."