Army Corps of Engineers Bulldoze Habitat in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge

Saturday, January 5, 2013
George Watland

Sierra Club Outings

Family Outing, Saturday, April 27, 3:00-4:30 pm, Leaders Joe Phillips & Silvia Darie, 

Level: Easy  Come join us for an easy walk in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. Flat, about 1.5 miles total. Children and anyone not interested in climbing mountains are welcome to experience this unique piece of nature and recreation. Area somewhat accessible to strollers. 3:00-4:30pm. Meet at the amplitheatre off of Woodley between Victory and Burbank. After pulling into the driveway by the Japanese Gardens, bear to the right and follow that path to the end past the cricket fields and archery range on your left. There are rest rooms facing the parking lot. Good shoes, appropriate clothing for the weather, and one quart of water are all recommended. Co-sponsored by Sierra Singles and Little Hikers. All minors need to be accompanied by a parent or another adult with written release from the parent. Rain cancels.

The outing will tour the well developed wildlife refuge in the Sepulveda Basin.  This area is adjacent to the habitat closer to Sepulveda Dam that was bulldozed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in December 2012.  



Although US Army Corps Commander Mark Toy announced work would proceed in last week, Corps to resume Sepulveda vegetation management operations, US Army Corps officials agreed in Feb. 21 meeting to stop the project as currently planned, and to look at solutions for the area other than seeding salt grass on most of the acreage as originally proposed. 

The Corps met on Feb. 21 with representatives from the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Native Plants Society, Encino Neighborhood Council, and US Representative Brad Sherman's office to discuss alternative solutions for the 48 acre area bulldozed near the Sepulveda Dam in December.  New alternative solutions were discussed at a conceptual level.  The Corps agreed to begin working-level discussions to refine these ideas over the coming weeks. An alternative solution of wildlife habitats for the area will be produced, reviewed and published according to federal NEPA requirements.

More information about working sessions to research and refine alternative solutions will be posted as they are scheduled.


Kris Ohlenkamp, Valley Audubon Chapter, describes habitat destroyed from the top of the Sepulveda Dam Embankment. Photo by G. Watland.
Water was running higher in the LA River just above the Sepulveda Dam after recent rains on the Feb. 10 hike led by Joe Phillips and Randall Kraus. Photo by G. Watland.
The Sierra Club hikers walk through the bare earth remaining after all woody shrubs and mature trees
were removed in the NE corner of the wildlife refuge in December.  Photo by G. Watland



National NPR story, Feb. 6:  Wildlife Advocates Fume Over Army Corps' Razing Of Reserve 


Terri Kaplan, Chief, Asset Management Division, Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, provided the following links to key documents related to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge: 
    Master Plan (10-1)
    Master Plan Appendices and EA (10-1)
    Vegetation Management Project EA



Please help preserve wildlife habitat by writing to your congressional Representative, photocopying Senators Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and your State Senator.  You can also copy your Councilmember if you live in the City of Los Angeles.  As the Corps is a federal agency California State CEQA laws do not apply to them, so no citizen participation is required for projects on land the Corps manages.  Please consider these talking points for inclusion in your letter:

  1. Complete destruction of 43 acres of wildlife habitat is certainly “significant”.
  2. Changing the description on the area south of Burbank Boulevard from “native habitat” to “vegetation” is a step backward in stewardship of the Sepulveda Basin.  The Plan should be reworked and south of Burbank Boulevard should be designated as “native wildlife habitat”. 
  3. There is no list of non-native trees to be removed in the FONSI, and there were a number of coast live oaks, box elders, large willows and two species of cottonwoods, all natives, in that area.  Native plants and trees should be replanted.
  4. The next phase of the Corps plan is several years of herbicide spraying, then reseeding with saltgrass, which is not expected to last through a summer without water.   
  5. Stop any further action on this area pending public comments, and scrap the current in favor of a “restoration of habitat” plan.




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

Terrie Brady, San Fernando Valley Group and representative to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee

Joe Phillips, San Fernando Valley Group and Outings Leader for Sunday morning hikes through the Wildlife Refuge

Jan Kidwell, Verdugo Hills Group

George Watland, Angeles Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator




Sierra Club Mission Outdoors News article "Christmas Clear-Cut?"

Steve Fine participated in the joint Sierra Club and Audubon Chapter Hike on Sunday, Jan. 13 and shares the following videos.
L.A. Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve Part One - Update  &  Part Two - Tour
"Wildlife Refuge meets Army Corps of Engineers"

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee

US Representative Brad Sherman

Sierra Club Hike, Sunday, Jan. 13 & Video Tour

Letter Writing Campaign on Jan. 8




Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee Meeting, Jan. 22, Agenda & Meeting Notes, Jan Kidwell

Encino Neighborhood Council Parks Committee Meeting, Jan. 7,




Corps to resume Sepulveda vegetation management operations - 2/13/2013 - Los Angeles District Commander Col. Mark Toy told representatives of local environmental groups that his operations and maintenance crews would soon resume the vegetation management work that began in December 2012.  Work would continue Feb. 19 and include chipping felled trees and limbs and spreading the mulch in the upland area. 

US Army Corps of Engineers District  Commander, Colonel R. Mark Toy, met with representatives of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Native Plants Society, and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee.

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.



News sources

Wall Street Journal: Los Angeles Reimagines Its Waterway, Jan. 11.

LA Times:  Legislators want Army Corps to explain habitat removal decision, Jan. 4

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

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



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


Photo Gallery


Joe Phillips, Sierra Club Outings Leader, describes the habitat destruction behind him. Photo by G. Watland.
Those joining the Feb. 3 Sunday morning hike view the razed area near Haskell Creek. Photo by G. Watland.
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






I walked the basin today. I am ashamed that the Army Engineers destroyed all the work and money and effort of so many. They destroyed the decomposed granite main trail, destroyed
willows, tractored up the shores of the creek and showed a lack of education and training in wildlife area preservation best practices.

What's the matter army corpse of engineers? Not enough wars for you to fight? Why not tell your Republican overlords you need to be deployed somewhere were you are needed instead of plowing under one of the of the few remaining wild life areas in in this city. The damage you have caused is shameful and unnecessary. This is your rifle and this is a rake. Get to work.

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