Conservation groups angered when the US Army Corps of Engineers cleared vegetation in the Sepulveda Basin are now proposing remedies for the landscape.
In December, the Army Corps clear cut trees and brush over nearly 50 acres of land in the Basin. It said it acted to reduce crime in an area where people exchanged sex for drugs. The move outraged conservation groups, which were never consulted.
Now the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee have presented the Corps with a plan for restoring habitat for native plants and animals. It calls for restoration of a wilderness pond and trails. It urges the introduction of native plants, as well as seasonal marshes and/or grassland. The plan also calls for the expansion of habitats for native birds such as the Bell’s Vireo.
Audubon Society member Kris Ohlenkamp says his group and the Steering Committee want to be fully involved in any restoration effort.
"We want to monitor the whole process so we will feel comfortable in knowing that it’s done properly so there won’t have to be mitigation for the mitigation," he says.
The proposal also calls for the removal of all non-native and invasive plants. Ohlenkamp says the environmental groups want some oversight regarding the use of herbicides.
"We have apparently more expertise in determining the difference between native plants and non native plants," he says. "So we believe that we would be better at pursing the herbicide application component of this."
Ohlenkamp says the two groups are offering free labor and scientific advice to the Army Corps. "When it comes to re-vegetating the area they’re going to have to hire a lot of people if they want to plant all these plants," he says. "We have hundreds of volunteers who would be willing to come out and plant plants."
Army Corps officials did not respond to a request for comment on the conservation groups' proposal. The Corps has maintained that it must serve both environmental values and flood protection interests in the basin.
Regional water regulators want the Corps to justify its actions in the Sepulveda Basin by next week.
Much of the area's vegetation had been planted in the 1980s, when the Army Corps turned that portion of the Los Angeles River flood plain into a wildlife preserve. It was home to a wide variety of mammals, reptiles and birds.
n 2010, the Corps reclassified the preserve as a "vegetation management area." It undertook a new five-year mission to replace trees and shrubs with native grasses to improve access for Army Corps staffers and increase public safety.