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80 acres of Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve decimated, Audubon Society furious

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Count bird lovers among the outraged following the Army Corps of Engineers' decimation of 80 acres of wildlife refuge last week.

The L.A. Daily News reports the corps ripped up trees and stripped shrubbery from the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve — an action they say was meant to help police an area known for homeless camps and lewd behavior.

They say the move was part of a multiyear restoration initiave that includes removing non-native plants and trees. 

San Fernando Audubon Society officials say the public wasn't throughly informed of the plan, and that the "cleanup" removed native plants, utterly devastating an area that attracts many local and migratory birds.

Notes the L.A. Daily News:

Where there had been three decades of coyote bushes, mulefat and elderberry tree growth, there were now stumps and a field of twisted branches.

Where there was once a smooth hiking path through an area called the South Reserve was now a mud-filled road scarred by thick tire tracks.

Where a forest of brush and tall trees stood in the center of the San Fernando Valley was now an unobstructed view of the Sepulveda Dam and the nearby Ventura (101) Freeway.

And where there were once warblers and least bell's vireos - not to forget the scissortail flycatchers, broadwing hawks and rose-breasted grossbeaks favored by birders across the state - there was hardly a bird in sight.

"It's going to be very tough for local wildlife," Muriel Kotin, one of four Audubon members to review the devastation, told the newspaper.

The society alerted Rep. Brad Sherman, whose office plans to talk with both sides.

A 61-page vegetation management plan for part of the Sepulveda flood basin was published last August by the Army Corps but reportedly wasn't shown to local environmental groups or Basin stakeholders.

The Audubon discovered the plan in early Dec. and expressed environmental concerns to the Corps. A Corps spokesman said they would make "a better effort" in the future to notify residents and be aware of concerns.

"I am horrified and saddened, that no thought was given to the needs of wildlife that lived here," said Alan Pollackcq, an Audubon board member. "There was no (public) consultation."

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