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L.A. Citizens Defend Ballona Wetlands from Disastrous Bulldozing Plan

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L.A. Citizens Defend Ballona Wetlands from Disastrous Bulldozing Plan

Egrets at LA's Ballona Wetlands.

The citizens of Los Angeles are expressing their opposition to California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife’s plan to bulldoze LA’s Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve

Great Blue Heron (c)Defend Ballona Wetlands

Los Angeles, November 24, 2023 — Despite a judge having ruled against it, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) seems determined to try and forge ahead with its very destructive and highly unpopular plan to bulldoze LA’s Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve over a period of about a decade.  Located near Marina del Rey, it’s home to upwards of 2,000 species of animal and plant wildlife, with possibly more than a million sentient beings living there.

Threatened, endangered, and special status species, including the white-tailed kite, great blue heron, burrowing owl, least Bell’s vireo, snowy egret, and many more, will lose their homes if the plan to drastically and violently modify the 600+ acre reserve becomes a reality. Given that this is LA’s last coastal wetlands, critics say this plan essentially condemns thousands of these cherished wild animals to death. In numerous hearings, members of the public have expressed outrage and bafflement that California’s government seems eager to decimate so many fragile species during an era of accelerating species extinction, precisely due to habitat destruction.

Bulldozing Critics Urge the Public to Take 3 Actions for Voiceless Wildlife

An owl flies at LA's Ballona Wetlands.
An owl flies at LA’s Ballona Wetlands.

There are three crucial actions people can take to help stop this plan: Firstly, In Defense of Animals has a letter that you can send with one click and more than 1,400 people have already sent it. Secondly, people can express their opposition in an email directly to BWERcomments@wildlife.ca.gov, putting “Ballona REIR Scoping Comment” in the subject line. Thirdly, you can go to the Defend Ballona Wetlands website and sign up to get notifications about hearings.

A Judge Sides with Critics of the Bulldozing Plan

On May 17, 2023, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant, in a merging of four different lawsuits, ordered the CDFW to set aside its certification of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project because it “failed to disclose and analyze flood control design parameters” associated with proposed levees and other infrastructure. The judge’s ruling also criticized the lack of consideration for the impact on wildlife. Despite this judicial condemnation of the plan, the CDFW continues to try and move forward, with Fish & Wildlife officials sitting stone-faced as about 40 members of the public testified against the plan at a November, 2023 hearing with virtually no public testimony in support of the ecologically unsound proposal.

UnchainedTV’s Jane Velez-Mitchell had a conversation with some of the key opponents of the plan, Defend Ballona Wetland’s Marcia Hanscom, Protect Ballona Wetlands’ Wendy-Sue Rosen, and In Defense of Animals’ Lisa Levinson. You can watch the entire conversation here:

What’s Behind the Plan to Bulldoze LA’s Ballona Wetlands?

marcia hanscom
Marcia Hanscom

Marcia Hanscom is the lead organizer of Defend Ballona Wetlands, a community coalition dedicated to stopping this plan. She has worked for the protection of the Ballona Wetlands for nearly 30 years. She’s also Vice President of Operations for the Heart of LA Democratic Club, and she is also on the Board of Directors for Southern California Americans for Democratic Action and for Coalition for a Beautiful Los Angeles. She explains what the infamous CDFW bulldozing plan is all about:

“The heart of the plan is to remove, to demolish, the sides of the Ballona creek. This river runs right through the middle of the Ballona Wetland Ecological Reserve. It’s part of the Ecological Reserve and it’s been protecting the public and the marshlands for almost a hundred years. It was in the early 1930s that the sides of the river were built. They call them levees. A lot of people who know this area know that one of the levees is where you ride your bicycle — there’s a great bicycle path there. But they want to remove that and destroy the habitat all around it.”

Why Is Calfornia’s Department of Fish & Wildlife Out to Kill Wildlife?

After researching the issue, Hanscom has a hypothesis about why the CDFW is continuing with the project despite the wide opposition, and the judge’s ruling:

“There are two reasons why this is happening. One, there are private interests that are benefiting by planning this project for 17 years, and there also is the fossil fuel industry that, if they dig down and excavate this whole area, they will be able to put new infrastructure in… there’s a fossil fuel operation there at Ballona Wetlands. It’s a gas storage facility, where they bring in fracked gas from other states, and they transport it all across the country to put into the Ballona wetlands deep beneath the ground.”

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“The more letters that are written the better. They need to know they can’t be spending our public money on something that is so opposed by the public.” — Marcia Hanscom, Defend Ballona Wetlands

The Opposition to the Plan Is Huge & Growing

Lisa Levinson
Lisa Levinson

Lisa Levinson directs In Defense of Animals’ Sustainable Activism Campaign, which offers emotional and spiritual support for animal activists via a helpline, support groups, and online events. Lisa organizes Vegan Spirituality groups as well as retreats to explore veganism as a spiritual practice. She co-founded Public Eye: Artists for Animals to teach compassion for animals through the arts and founded the Toad Detour to help migrating toads safely cross roads in Philadelphia. She explains why In Defense of Animals opposes this plan:

“We care about the animals at Ballona. We heard about this going on from local activists and we decided to protest. We’ve done some protests, we’ve done some virtual town halls around this to save the Ballona wetlands, we’ve been involved in this for many years, and we were very excited about the winning of the lawsuit over the summer, so we wanted to continue to help by putting together another one of our alerts to urge the Wildlife Commission not to refund this phony restoration project that will bulldoze the area and leave the animals there without a home for ten years during this construction project.”

“There’s some incongruence going on with the goals and statutes of the department and with the public who really wants this agency to protect the animals.” — Lisa Levinson, In Defense of Animals

The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve Is Not Dead

Wendy-Sue Rosen
Wendy-Sue Rosen

Wendy-Sue Rosen has been an advocate for protecting nature and the public interest for over 35 years. She is the founder of Protect Ballona Wetlands, which is concerned with biodiversity and public access. She is also a Board Member for California Environmental Voters and Coalition for a Beautiful Los Angeles, and is on the Community Advisory Board for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. She explains that bureaucrats are either willfully ignorant or outright lying when they rationalize the bulldozing plan by claiming the Ballona Wetlands is dying.

“For 20 years they’ve been saying that this is dead and dying, and yet we’ve seen not just that the wetlands are beautiful, and if you walk around you can take pictures, but also that three protected species have come back. The habitat there is rich, it’s thriving, and what we have, I think, is some stale science. We have biological surveys that need to be redone. We haven’t had any biological surveys in over 10 years.”

“We have 11,000 supporters on a petition to the governor, not to mention hundreds and hundreds of postcards that have been written, and we are going to continue until we are heard.” — Wendy-Sue Rosen, Protect Ballona Wetlands

 

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