Conservation and Restoration

December, 2009 - A Report on Conservation Efforts by Los Angeles Audubon, by Garry George


An Audubon California “Important Bird Area” located west of Whittier Narrows, is slated for a suggested housing development by its owner.
The site contains approximately 480 acres of coastal sage scrub habitat and has California Gnatcatcher and Cactus Wren populations.  Plains Exploration and Production Company’s (PBX)  real estate development arm, wants to develop half of it with housing and turn the other half of it into a “gnatcatcher reserve.”
The owner of the property is Plains Exploration and Production Company, the Texas and Bakersfield oil and gas company currently drilling in the Baldwin Hills. The company also wants to drill off the Coast of California.

Our contributions:

We wrote comments on the The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Notice of Preparation (NOP), to focus the City of Montebello (lead agency) on Gnatcatchers and Cactus Wrens.  We partnered with Sierra Club, Endangered Habitats League and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on strategy, and contributed financially to an extensive biological survey and comment letter filed on behalf of Endangered Habitats League.
Latest report:
The development lost its support in the Montebello City Council as the Mayor was ousted and two new City Council members have been elected that give a majority on the Council that does not support the development, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Big developer, Monterey Hills Investors, planned to build homes on a hillside in El Sereno in the NE hills of Los Angeles near Debs Park using an EIR approved over twenty years ago.  Local residents, led by former Audubon Center at Debs Park Director, Elva Yañez, protested the development to the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission and Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar.  The city demanded an updated EIR from the developer, the developer sued, and the city just settled the lawsuit and bought the land for around 12 million dollars to be 20 acres of open space.

Our contributions:
We wrote letters and met with Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar and testified publicly at the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission and City Council meetings.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has invited Los Angeles Audubon to be one of a small group of participants in a workshop on the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Study to be held on December 2, 3, & 4, 2009.  This is because of our five year participation on the Los Angeles River Stakeholders Committee.  We will be briefed by the Army Corps on their restoration alternatives from Verdugo Wash downstream to 1st Street, and discuss and provide ecosystem restoration alternatives in the three day session.

Our contributions:
We have been on the Los Angeles River Stakeholders Committee since around 2004, and have provided the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan with comments, and testified twice before the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc River Committee, chaired by Councilmember Ed Reyes.  We discussed the importance of water flow in the Los Angeles River to migratory shorebirds that feed and congregate on the lower Los Angeles River, the impacts of the river revitalization on birds in general, and opportunities that might be available for nature education and public bird watching on the Los Angeles River.

Los Angeles Audubon is considering partnering with San Fernando Valley Audubon on a study and confidential mapping of sensitive species including: Swainson’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Mountain Plover, Burrowing Owl, Le Conte’s Thrasher and other species of birds from our article “Los Angeles County Sensitive Bird Species” which appeared in the Western Tanager Vol. 75 No. 3, Jan/Feb 2009.
This study could inform permitting and wildlife agencies on applications for large and small scale solar and wind projects in the Antelope Valley.  This would add another layer to the GIS layers of other environmental groups on plants, animals and other resources in the desert that should be avoided by solar projects, and hopefully direct them to areas where environmental permits may be easier to obtain.  We hope.

Los Angeles Audubon held the third conference for beach managers and interested parties to present the results and recommendations of the 2009 surveys of Snowy Plovers on Los Angeles County Beaches.  The conference was held at Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.  Kimball Garrett welcomed the group.  Tom Ryan and Stacey Vigallon, led the meeting attended by beach managers from Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors, Hermosa Beach, program partners from Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon, Santa Monica Bay Audubon, potential partners Heal the Bay, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, CalCoast, and by representatives from California Department of Fish & Game and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Protection of the Plovers on Dockweiler Beach with symbolic fencing and a permitted docent program run by Los Angeles Audubon, will hopefully be completed in the near future, pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Los Angeles County Beaches & Harbors.
Attending for Los Angeles Audubon were Mary Loquvam, Garry George, and Stacey Vigallon.  Tom Ryan’s Power Point presentation is available upon request. Email requests to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our contributions:
Los Angeles Audubon, in partnership with Tom Ryan, initiated this program in 2005, funded by grants.  Stacey Vigallon first joined Los Angeles Audubon as Volunteer Coordinator and biologist for this project, replacing Jenny Jones when she moved.  This is a citizen science project with data provided mostly by volunteers from the three chapters of Audubon that are partnered.  The first surveys found a freshly killed Snowy Plover in a tire track at Zuma, which added a sense of urgency to the work.  The project hopes to find the first breeding record of Snowy Plover on Los Angeles County beaches since 1949, and has already recorded pre-breeding behaviors.  Western Snowy Plover, is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The City of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles Audubon, Urban Wildlands Group, Endangered Habitats League, and American Bird Conservancy have entered into an agreement which extends the deadline under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for filing of a lawsuit on the City’s adoption of an ordinance allowing Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) of feral and domestic cats without environmental review.  This gives the coalition of environmentalists the opportunity to work with the City of Beverly Hills on the enactment of the ordinance to address our concerns for the welfare of birds and other wildlife.  The city concluded that an environmental review was not necessary in adopting the ordinance, an opinion which the coalition of environmentalists does not share.

Our contributions:
Los Angeles Audubon joined the coalition of environmental groups in opposing the ordinance publicly and in written comments, and has joined the coalition in a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for adopting a TNR policy without environmental review.  Los Angeles Audubon and National Audubon Society do not support TNR as we do not support the release of domestic or feral cats into the natural environment.  Scientific evidence shows that TNR does not reduce the number of cats in a colony and may actually increase them, and the impacts on native wildlife is not considered in TNR programs. Predation by cats is one of the biggest reasons for the decline of migratory and resident songbirds in North America after habitat loss and collision with man made structures.