In response to growing public outcry, State officials set a deadline last week for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain why the agency razed 43 acres of wildlife habitat in the Sepulveda Basin. The Army Corps have until February 11 to file a report detailing the extent of damage to local plant life as well as an assessment of the remaining wildlife habitat conditions before and after the operation. The report is also expected to include ways the Army Corps plans to restore the habitat.
Dedicated bird watchers were shocked shortly before last Christmas to witness the once lush greenery west of the 405 Freeway turned into a dull, tree-barren landscape. This habitat, created over thirty years ago by community volunteers, became an important shelter for local wildlife from the surrounding urban sprawl. A local pond that was a crucial feeding and resting site for migrating birds was also filled with sediment.
The Army Corps cited a lingering homeless presence as well as lewd acts and drug dealing in the area as reasons for clearing the habitat. They also claimed that no bulldozers were used in the operation. But Community and Environmental groups are skeptical, stating that LAPD crime maps of the area show no such crimes occurring and that pictures of the deforested area indicate clear evidence of bulldozers.
The groups also found that the Army Corps intentionally avoided public input in the planning process and worked under a flawed impact analysis report. In two years time, no Army Corps representative has attended any of the regular meetings held by the involved organizations despite repeated invitations. Devastation to the area is so great that groups like the San Fernando Audubon Society believe it will take a decade or more before the area can recover.
GUEST: Kris Ohlenkamp, Conservation Chair With the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society
Visit www.sfvaudubon.org for more information.