Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge

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Sierra Club Hike, Sunday, Jan. 13, 9 am - Activists from Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and Friends of the LA River walked through the devastated areas of the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge. The group met at the amphitheater for an update from Kris Ohlenkamp, Audubon Society, before hiking through the north and south portions of the Wildlife Refuge with Sierra Club leaders Joe Phillips and Sandra Tapia.


Take a video tour of the damaged areas in the Wildlife Refuge.

Part 1 begins on the east side. Click on video frame to begin.

Complete the video tour of the refuge.

Part 2 continues  along Haskell Creek to the LA River.  Click on video frame to view.





The Los Angeles City Parks and Recreation Department has yet to respond to the public outcry about the demolition of the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge.  For more information about the refuge, how the city works with the US Army Corps of Engineers and who is represented on the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee, please click http://www.laparks.org/dos/horticulture/sepulvedabasin.htm.

US Representative Brad Sherman met with representatives from Sierra Club, Audubon Society and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee late on Friday, Jan. 11 to discuss the meeting earlier in the day that his policy adviser, Michael Tou, had arranged for the environmental groups with Army Corps of Engineer officials from the LA District.  The congressman raised many questions about the actions taken by the Corps at the wildlife refuge and committed his support to get answers and for continued public input to the project through its remaining phases.

The office of US Representative Brad Sherman invited the Sierra Club to a meeting at the Los Angeles District offices of the US Army Corps of Engineers, with George Watland attending on behalf of the Sierra Club.  Representatives of the Audubon Society, Native Plants Society, and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee were also invited. US Army Corps of Engineers District  Commander, Colonel R. Mark Toy, and his direct reports directly involved in the project at the Sepulvada Basin Wildlife Refuge described how the project was developed and how it was to be implemented.  All agreed that the Corps failed to communicate project information with community, environmental and public stakeholders.  Project work was halted suddenly leaving much vegetative debris on the ground.  All agreed that something must be done to mulch or remove that debris for public safety concerns.  Beyond that immediate next step, Commander Toy agreed to include environmental stakeholders in a process to reassess all remaining phases of the project.  More information to be posted as Commander Toy and Congressman Sherman repond to the outcome of this initial meeting.

The office of US Representative Brad Sherman shares his letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers and advises that a meeting is planned.  Click to read his letter.

State Senator Fran Pavley shares her letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Click to read her letter.


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Large area of Wildlife Habitat Completely Ruined by Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Management Plan

It took the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) just two days in December to systematically destroy a 43 acre wildlife preserve south of Burbank Boulevard in the Sepulveda Basin.  ACE posted a Finding of Negative Significant Impact (FONSI) online giving the public 15 days to respond last summer, but informed no-one of its existence.  They have circumvented California CEQA disclosure law and must be prevented from completing this project.  Complete destruction of wildlife habitat is certainly “significant”.  ACE must also be prevented from repeating this kind of destructive land use management in other areas of California.   

Activists Survey Habitat Damage
 Photo by Mathew Tekulsky

Area Cleared in Wildlife Habitat 
Photo by Mathew Tekulsky

Bulldozed Habitat in the Wildlife Reserve
 Photo by George Watland

Brush Habitat Similar to the Bulldozed Area
Photo by George Watland


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Please write immediately to Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and to your Councilmember if you live in the City of Los Angeles.  Ask them to stop any further action on this project.  Please also copy your congressional Representative.  Brad Sherman is the Representative for the Sepulveda Basin.  

1.    The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area Steering Committee (SBWASC) is a dedicated group of volunteers that for 20 years has tried to remove non-native plants and encourage the growth of native plans in the Sepulveda Basin.  They are well known by ACE as an advisory committee to the City of Los Angeles.  SBWASC is populated by Audubon leaders, the Native Plant Society, and a Sierra Club representative among others.  No notification of this project that destroyed all the native and non-native shrubs, was given to the committee.
2.    For 30 years the acreage that was destroyed provided food, shelter, and breeding habitat for hundreds of migratory and resident birds.  Where will they go now?  The larger pond on the north side of Burbank Boulevard is all that is left.  Will that be targeted for the ACE’s style of stewardship next?
3.    One of the most disturbing aspects is that ACE did not implement their posted plan at all.  They went far beyond it.  Their FONSI states that a biologist would be on site to determine which trees to remove and which to “flag” to prevent damage to native trees.  If a biologist was present it was not a conservationist interested in preserving habitat for wildlife.  There was no flagging of trees, and one oak was destroyed, another damaged by deep cuts that may kill it.  Also a Eucalyptus, a pine and ash trees that are not native were not removed.  So the trees that are left standing were not well selected.
4.    The Audubon Society discovered the damage while on their annual Christmas bird count.  They say once warblers, least bell's vireos, scissortail flycatchers, broadwing hawks and rose-breasted grossbeaks used this area.  Last Sunday, there were no birds in sight.  ACE and the City of Los Angeles must be held accountable for this destruction.
5.    The SBWASC say that clearing brush by hand is strongly preferred over large scale mechanized removal.  But the SBWASC were not given the chance to provide any comment on this project.  That should not be allowed to happen again.
6.    There is no list of non-native trees to be removed in the FONSI document.  This is a major omission.  Also, of the native trees to be “flagged” and kept, according to the plan, only the valley oak and sycamore were listed.  There are also a number of coast live oaks, box elders, two species of cottonwoods, and large willows that are native in that area.  A biologist who is also a knowledgeable conservationist should be included in the process of wildlife habitat management, even if no-one else is included.
7.    The ACE plan describes a year for destruction, several years of pesticide spraying, then seeding and planting of native plants for a few years after that is Phase 3.  Regrowth of shrubs will take a number of years.  This part of the plan should be modified with the help of a biologist.  We have already lost many mature native shrubs as a result of this ACE project.

There will be a walkthrough of the Sepulveda Basin wildlife areas on Sunday January 13 with our own Joe Phillips of the San Fernando Valley Group and Kris Ohlenkamp, Conservation Chair of the SFV Audubon Society.  You have to see the difference between the areas north and south of Burbak Boulevards to believe them!


For updates on local responses, please contact these Sierra Club Activists:  

Terrie Brady, San Fernando Valley Group              

Jan Kidwell, Verdugo Hills Group

George Watland, Angeles Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator



Join Sierra Club activists at the Encino Neighborhood Council Parks Committee Meeting, 01/07/2013 7:00 PM


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News sources

Click on Los Angeles Reimagines Its Waterway to read the Wall Street Journal article posted on Jan. 11.

LA Times:  Legislators want Army Corps to explain habitat removal decision  --  State Senators Kevin de Leon and Fran Pavley have asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain its decision and to tell what led to the agency’s declaration in August that its plan for the area did not require an environmental impact report because it would not significantly disturb wildlife and habitat.

LA Times: Army Corps of Engineers clear-cuts lush habitat in Valley

Daily News: Wildlife group outraged at plant clearance in Sepulveda Basin



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