WHY BULLDOZERS SHOULD BE BANNED AT BALLONA
Massive plans to transform the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve into a radically different space are under consideration by The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Coastal Conservancy and other government agencies, along with two private foundations (The Bay Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation). Their plans include extensive habitat alteration by bulldozing massive amounts of earth. Current plants and animals would be radically changed or eliminated. Plans also would demolish the existing levees resulting in the death of habitat that currently is in equilibrium. As a result of eliminating the levees, polluted water that is upstream would be released into the fragile marsh grassland ecosystem.
• While more than 90 percent of California's coastal wetland ecosystems has been destroyed, the type of habitat found at the Ballona Wetlands Reserve is the rarest of our remaining coastal wetlands. In 2003/2004, more than 640 acres on the Los Angeles coast were acquired by the State of California for preservation. These were not to be altered. The reserve is public land dedicated for protection of ecologically sensitive species.
• Flora and fauna found at the reserve include endangered and imperiled species such as the California Gnatcatcher, White-tailed Kite, California Least Tern, Belding's Savannah Sparrow, El Segundo Blue Butterfly and the Lewis' Primrose; some species are year round residents of Ballona while some bird species migrate from as far away as the Amazon River and the Arctic Circle; this ecosystem has abundant flora and fauna, including rare species and a high diversity of pollinators.
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Below, the Western Snowy Plover (listed as "Threatened" on the Federal Endangered Species Llst) is captured on videotape foraging for insects on the edges of the Ballona Salt Panne. The Salt Panne is an historical landscape feature that would be obliterated under the state government's plans. The video is a little shaky -- it's difficult keeping up with this little guy -- but it's worth watching him. Stop the video if you need to. This is the first documentation of the Snowy Plover in the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in many years. It brings the number of species to seven that are on either the Federal or State Endangered Species Lists. Video by Protect Ballona Wetlands photographer Jonathan Coffin.
• The Annenberg Foundation also wants a long-term lease of this public land to build a 46,000-sq.-ft. facility as well as a manicured theme-park like setting for it. This would be in a location where Herons, Kites and Egrets now feed within the Ecological Reserve. Their proposed plan is a privatization of public land that flies in the face of the purpose established for it by the State of California. We believe the deed restrictions on the land mean that if this project were to proceed, it would be a violation of the law.
• While the Annenberg Foundation is offering tens of millions of dollars to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the foundation's accompanying requirement to erect a private dog and cat adoption center would encroach on habitat and seriously impair its functioning. The facility -- on public lands -- would include a veterinary hospital, office space, classrooms, an auditorium, an education center, public restrooms, parking and more, taking over a significant amount of the preserve.
• Several scientists and experts who are restoration ecologists have publicly explained that the approach suggested for Ballona is not a restoration. In fact, they say the work will repeat well-known restoration mistakes at Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Batiquitos and other Southern California wetlands based on erroneous understandings of historical ecology. Sadly, these areas were disastrously altered during the past century as a result of these scientific blunders.
• The current plans for Ballona are in direct contradiction to one of the most fundamental restoration principles: "First, Do No Harm." Ballona is a mosaic of many habitat types and includes increasingly rare species with a long and important history in Southern California. It is clear that implementing the plans will cause severe harm.