Friday, March 23, 2012

Feeder Alert!

Ohio lawn and garden care company Scotts Miracle-Gro has pleaded guilty to breaching federal pesticide laws by using an unapproved insecticide on bird seed sold nationwide for two years. In Columbus, U.S. District Court Judge James Graham accepted the company's guilty plea on Tuesday.

Scotts is proposing to pay a $4 million fine and give $500,000 to help support wildlife conservation and study.

The government alleges that beginning in 2005, Scotts produced a line of wild bird food products under names including "Morning Song" and "Country Pride" that contained insecticides. The government says the insecticides, which are toxic to birds and other wildlife, were not approved for use on bird food.

Los Angeles Audubon recommends that bird lovers in Los Angeles kill their lawn and replace it with native plants that provide food and shelter for birds when possible as an alternative or along with providing bird seed in feeders, when possible. If bird feeders are used, we recommend frequent cleaning and monitoring for disease causing or toxic agents, and if you buy seed make sure you know what you are buying and buy from a reliable source.

Find out more about feeding birds naturally here:

http://losangelesaudubon.org/conservation-a-restoration-mainmenu-82/129-trees-plants-garden-at-home-your-neighborhood/250-planting.

LA County revises General Plan and SEAs

Los Angeles County is revising the General Plan and hopes to have environmental documents out by summer 2012 for public review and comment. The General Plan governs how and where development in Los Angeles County will be permitted .

Included in the plan is a revision of the Sensitive Ecological Areas program. The County has adopted 61 SEAs of about 125,000 acres, and proposes to expand that to 27 large SEAs of around 650,517 acres, many of which are in the Antelope Valley.

SEAs require applicants for development to undergo a more rigorous review of impacts of development on biological resources such as birds, but they aren’t all fully protected.

Los Angeles Audubon will be advocating for the highest level of protections for birds, especially for sensitive bird species of Los Angeles County as identified by the Los Angeles County Sensitive Bird Species Working Group (Larry Allen, Mary Freeman, Dan Cooper, Jon Feenstra, Kimball Garrett, Garry George, Mary Loquvam, Eleanor Osgood, Tom Ryan, Mike San Miguel and Stacey Vigallon) and published in Volume 75, Number 3 January/February 2009 WESTERN TANAGER. You can find this issue online at the Los Angeles Audubon website. More on the General Plan on http://planning.lacounty.gov/generalplan

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Los Angfeles Audubon works to conserve Swainson's hawk in Antelope Valley


SWAINSON’S HAWK IN THE ANTELOPE VALLEY

Raptor expert Pete Bloom gave a well attended presentation at the November 10, 2010 Los Angeles Audubon meeting on Swainson ’s hawk in the Antelope Valley. His presentation revealed that there are 10-14 breeding pair of hawks left in the Valley in Los Angeles and Kern County, that they are the southernmost breeding population in California, that they are fairly isolated from other populations of Swainson’s hawk, and that they are in danger of being extirpated by loss of habitat, especially conversion of agricultural lands from a rapid increase in solar development .

Pete’s requested that Los Angeles Audubon and other Audubon chapters to do what we can to protect the birds.

This sent your Conservation Chair to the City of Lancaster to meet with Planning officials to find out what solar projects were under application and where they are in relation to Swainson’s hawk nests. Surprisingly, the meeting revealed that the comment period for a solar project was currently open. Accordingly, Los Angeles Audubon submitted comments on this site especially regarding Swainson’s hawk, Mountain plover, LeConte’s thrasher and Burrowing owl. That letter is available for review by contacting me here.

It was interesting to learn from City planners that the city of Lancaster has a bird watcher and bird artist as Vice Mayor and City Council member, and that the City levies a $700/acre development fee for every permitted project that goes into a mitigation fund for conservation. Recently the City purchased lands to add to the Poppy Reserve. Los Angeles Audubon suggested that this fund could be used to purchase permanent foraging habitat for Swainson’s hawk, and that Swainson’s hawk foraging habitat could also be good mitigation habitat for Burrowing owl, Mountain plover and other sensitive species at the same time. The problem of course is finding willing sellers of agricultural lands that could be good habitat, and raising enough money.

California Department of Fish & Game recently released protocol for surveys for Swainson’s hawk in Antelope Valley of Los Angeles and Kern County that includes a guidelines that “suggest surveys and acquisition of mitigation lands prior to construction of the project if nests are found within five miles of a project site.” If those of us who are interested in Swainson’s hawk conservation comment on upcoming solar projects, then we might encourage developers to mitigate for impacts on foraging habitat for the hawks.

Interestingly, when I offered the sighting data from eBird to the City planners and in comments to the letter, I saw that almost all the sightings entered in eBird were from Kimball Garrett or Jon Feenstra or birders visiting from other countries

We have good yearly Audubon Christmas Bird Count data, mostly supplied by Nick and Mary Freeman and volunteers that accompany them every winter, but outside that winter period there is little raw data to use for conservation of Antelope Valley birds. I urge you to enter your sightings from trips to Antelope Valley into eBird so that Los Angeles Audubon and other conservation organizations can use this data to protect our birds.

Antelope Valley is an Audubon California Important Bird Area. The Important Bird Areas Program of BirdLife International aims to identify, monitor and protect a global network of IBAs for the conservation of the world's birds and other biodiversity. National Audubon, and Audubon California as the state office, are the American partners of BirdLife International.

Let’s do all we can to protect the southernmost breeding population of Swainson’s hawk that currently survive in the Antelope Valley by

  • entering our data on Swainson's hawk in eBird
  • keeping track of solar applications in Antelope Valley
  • donating to Los Angeles Audubon's conservation program


Friday, September 3, 2010

Los Angeles County releases Marina del Rey Conservation Plan


In reponse to pressure to protect herons, egrets and other roosting and nesting species of birds in the Marina from Los Angeles Audubon, the Coastal Commission and others, Los Angeles Angeles County Beaches & Harbors has released a Conservation Plan for Marina del Rey, authored by biologists Robb Hamilton and Dan Cooper. Los Angeles Audubon has commented on the plan regarding the historic presence of herons and egrets in the Marina. Little is know of the birds prior to 1900 when the birds declined precipitously from hunting for feathers for women's hats, but observations from Grinnell and others suggest that herons and egrets have historically been present in what is now now known as Marina del Rey. We congratulate Los Angeles County for considering a conservation plan for its natural resources such as wildlife that are an important part of the ecology of our West Coast.


The Conservation plan can be found here

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LA AUDUBON WINS $1,000 IN CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS INITIATION SIGNATURE INCENTIVE

Thanks to the efforts of volunteers Eleanor Osgood, Garry George and Martha Balkan, LA Audubon gathered the most signatures for the initiative of any large chapter in California winning the $1,000 Incentive offered by Audubon California. In early May, the Save Our State Parks campaign delivered over 700,000 signatures, far more than the 400,000 needed to qualify for the ballot. The California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010 will be on the November ballot! The act establishes an $18 increase in car registration fees, for which registrants receive free admission to all State Parks, that is placed in a trust overseen by a Citizens Oversight Committee. The trust fund cannot be borrowed from, reduced, or touched by the Legislature or the Governor. It is estimated that the registration fee increase will bring permanent funding to California State Parks such as our own Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park, Rio de Los Angeles State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Topanga State Park, Point Dume State Park, Placerita State Park, Dockweiler State Beach, Castaic Lake, all places that are important for birds and birders.

SPILL BABY SPILL










President Obama and Governor Schwartzenegger’s support of offshore drilling reversed following the blowout of the BP Oil rig in Gulf of Mexico on April 20, which is still spewing oil as of this writing. The Secretary of the Interior has announced that there will be no new offshore drilling considered until this spill and the impacts are resolved, and our Governor held a press conference withdrawing his support for the PXP deal with Environmental Defense Center that would authorize new drilling off of California’s coast in exchange for decommission of all platforms in the future, an agreement that was voted down by the State Lands Commission and criticized by many environmentalists due to questions of its enforceability, secrecy and doubts about its jurisdiction.

But Audubon has been mobilized to respond to the Gulf of Mexico spill which threatens marshes and birds along the Coast. As of this writing 11,000 volunteers have signed up on Audubon’s website to go to Louisiana to clean oiled birds, an effort led by Melanie Driscoll of Audubon Louisiana and supported by staff of Richardson Bay Audubon Center in Tiburon, California, who gained experience rescuing birds during the November 2007 Cosso Busan oil spill in the Bay.

On May 12, an Audubon staffer in Louisiana reported to me by email: “So far, very few oiled birds have been found and brought in. All the agencies and organizations involved are using this time – before there are lots of birds – to get structures and processes in place to deal with a much larger response when and if it becomes necessary. The basic process by which a bird is rescued is as follows. Birds are located and reported to the wildlife hotline. The Oiled Wildlife Center (Tri-State) is notified. They notify the field team to pick up the bird. The field team lets the land transport team and a wildlife transport facilitator (volunteer) know that birds are on their way to a staging area. The transport team takes birds to the Oiled Wildlife Center, where paraprofessionals admit, stabilize, wash, and rehabilitate birds. USFWS releases rehabilitated birds, usually in 7 to 10 days post-cleaning.”

Sign up to volunteer for the oil spill here


Friday, March 12, 2010

LADWP DROPS GREEN PATH NORTH

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced that it has dropped plans to build an 85-mile-long "green" power transmission line across desert wilderness preserves and scenic ridgelines including Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a favorite birding spot for LA Audubon birders and an Audubon California Important Bird Area. This follows three years of opposition from environmental groups including Los Angeles Audubon, San Bernardino Valley Audubon, California Desert Coalition and Wildlands Conservancy.

While supporting renewable energy, the environmental groups advocated that LADWP use transmission lines that already exist rather than build new ones through pristine habitat. The Green Path was planned to go through Pioneertown near Yucca Valley, Pipes Canyon Wilderness Preserve as well as Morongo.

Los Angeles Audubon celebrates this victory.

Full story in LA TIMES here

White House supports Feinstein Desert Landmark legislation

Sen Feinstein’s legislation to create a Mojave desert national monument and protect over 1 million acres of habitat got support from the Obama administration. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar testified in Congress that the bill would not interfere with the 52 solar energy projects proposed for Southern California deserts.

"We've come to understand that your legislation is exactly the right approach," Salazar told Feinstein, D-Calif., during a hearing before a Senate subcommittee. "There are right places for there to be development, there are places that we ought not have development and I think, in working closely with you and the stakeholders in Southern California, we have achieved that balance."

The legislation, called the California Desert Protection Act of 2010, was introduced late last year and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for consideration. The panel has yet to schedule a hearing on the bill.

Audubon joined other environmental groups in helping define criteria for siting of renewable energy projects in the Mojave and Colorado desert.

Full story in the Press Riverside here

Saturday, December 5, 2009

CITY OF LA settles lawsuit by buying Elephant Hills in NE LA

Elephant Hills (El Sereno)

Background: Big developer Monterey Hills Investors planned to build homes on a hillside in El Sereno in the NE Hills near Debs Park using an EIR approved over twenty years ago. Local residents led by former Debs Park Director Elva YaƱez protested the development to the Planning Commission and City Councilmember Jose Huisar. The City demanded an updated EIR from the developer, the developer sued, and the City just settled the lawsuit and bought the land for around 12 million dollars to be 20 acres of open space.

LA AUDUBON contributions:

We wrote letters and met with Huisar, we testified publicly at the Planning Commission and City Council.

LA TIMES story is here

Saturday, April 4, 2009

LA Audubon publishes tree trimming guidelines

In response to persecution of birds and nests by tree trimmers in Los Angeles, LA Audubon Conservation Committee members Linda Navroth and Eleanor Osgood worked with biologists, California Fish & Game officers, LA Audubon members and Board members, and others to create guidelines for tree trimmers in the Los Angeles County area. The guidelines will be printed and distributed to agencies as well as tree trimmers, and LA Audubon hopes that the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles will adopt the guidelines officially. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Los Angeles Audubon files lawsuit against City of Los Angeles over feral cat policy


Los Angeles Audubon has joined Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon and Urban Wildlands Group in a CEQA lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for not conducting an environmental review before adopting a policy that will have an impact on wildlife and habitat in Los Angeles.

Background:
In May, 2004 or thereabouts Los Angeles Audubon Board adopted a policy opposing Trap-Neuter-Return and wrote a letter to Board of Animal Services opposing their stated interest in adopting a Trap-Neuter-Return policy. .

In June, 2005 the Board of Commissioners of Animal Services Department of City of Los Angeles adopted a Trap-Neuter-Return policy disregarding any input from Los Angeles Audubon or other wildlife agencies or non-profits.

In January, 2006 LA Audubon signed on to a letter from a CEQA attorney notifying Animal Services that they have not conducted a full environmental review of the impacts of adopting their policy and our intent to litigate.

In January, 2008 LA Audubon signed on to a CEQA lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles with Urban Wildlands Group and Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon.

In September, 2008 we met with City Attorneys, staff of Animal Services and Urban Wildlands Group in a settlement conference. The settlement terms were rejected.

The Conservation Commitee has unanimously adopted a policy statement and have recommended it to the Board for ratification on April 13, 2008.

The resolution states "BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors of Los Angeles Audubon recognizes the science-based conclusions of the adverse impact of feral and free-ranging domestic cats on birds and other wildlife, and will advocate that local and state wildlife agencies, public health organizations, legislative bodies and the public restrict the maintenance and movement of feral and free-ranging domestic cats out-of-doors."

December 4, 2009 update!

Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled in favor of Urban Wildlands Group, Endangered Habitats League, American Bird Conservancy, Los Angeles Audubon and Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon on the CEQA lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for adopting TNR (Trap Neuter Release) without conducting an environmental review.

From the ruling:

“The City of Los Angeles is enjoined from implementing a Trap Neuter and Release (TNR) Program for Feral Cats unless and until an environmental review in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act is completed.”

The City of Los Angeles is prohibited from encouraging third parties to carry out such a program by providing incentives for, or otherwise facilitating, the capture, sterilization and release of feral cats by: providing traps free of charge, providing any discounts for spay and neuter surgeries for cats, providing information about such programs sponsored by other entities on its website or providing information about such programs sponsored by other entities on its website or providing cyber links thereto, by developing or distributing literature on the TNR program or by conducting public outreach on TNR using press releases, fliers or other media except in conjunction with the CEQA process.”

For more on ABC's Cats Indoors! program go here

For National Audubon's policy on cats go here



BLM requires wind farm to be monitored thanks to LA Audubon comments


The Bureau of Land Management of U.S. Department of Interior in Palm Springs has just approved Mountain View IV Wind Energy Project, a 49 large turbine project on 630 acres in the Whitewater River flood plain. Los Angeles Audubon commented on the project on March 9, 2007. Those comments prompted additional mitigation of one year of monitoring (carcass searches) during all four seasons of the first year of the project. Comments by San Bernardino Valley Audubon and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service brought over $95,000 in mitigation dollars to restore habitat for the fringe-toed lizard. To read the comment letter contact Conservation Chair Garry George at garrygeorge@laaudubon.org

Santa Barbara County approves wind farm with protections for birds


From Santa Barbara Audubon Conservation Chair Steve Ferry: 

"On September 30 the Santa Barbara Planning Commission approved the Lompoc Wind Energy Project (LWEP).  The project includes 65 wind turbine generators (WTGs) producing about 1.5 MW each on 3000 acres of private grazing land about 5 miles south of Lompoc.                  

This milestone is the culmination of approximately two years of effort by Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center (EDC), Santa Barbara Audubon Society (SBAS), La Purisima Audubon Society (LPAS), and Los Angeles Audubon Society (LAAS).  EDC and the three Audubon chapters made extensive comments on the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports and had numerous meetings with the County, the applicant, and their consultants.  As a result of those efforts, the Biological Resources section of the DEIR was completely re-written and significant protections to the environment were added. 

Just in the last week the County staff, at the urging of EDC and the Audubon chapters, inserted a requirement that parts of the project could be shut down if there were excessive bird mortalities.  This provision was a major goal of the environmental groups.  During the Planning Commission meeting EDC and Audubon advocated for strengthening of the shutdown provision, a longer period of bird mortality monitoring, offsite land easements, and additional protection for burrowing owls.  Our positions were supported by the Sierra Club, the Santa Barbara Community Action Network, and in part by the Community Environmental Council.  In the end, the Commission voted to extend the mortality monitoring and strengthen the shutdown provision.

 The approval of LWEP is a significant environmental achievement.  The project will produce enough clean energy to power about 50,000 homes.  The reduction of greenhouse gasses as a result of this project, if replicated across the country, will reduce global warming - a major threat to the survival of birds.  And the protections added to the project as a result of the efforts of EDC, SBAS, LPAS, and LAAS ensure that the environmental impacts of LWEP will be minimized.

 Special thanks for a long, sustained, and effective effort to those who worked on this project: Karen Kraus and Brian Trautwein of EDC, Steve Ferry of SBAS, Tam Taaffe and Paul Keller of LPAS, Garry George of LAAS, and Mark Holmgren.  Thanks also to Kris Burnell, former SBAS Science Chair, for her contributions."

 

Edwards AFB and UCSB start management plan for Piute Ponds

Los Angeles Audubon is a stakeholder and wrote comments on the process to create a management plan for Piute Ponds by Edwards AFB and UCSB Donald Bren School of Environmental Sciences. For more information on the process go here. For a copy of the Los Angeles Audubon comment letter email Conservation Chair Garry George at garrygeorge@laaudubon.org.  Piute Ponds is an Audubon California IBA.

LA AUDUBON recommends Technical Advisory Committee for LA RIVER revitalization

On October 20, 2008 in testimony before LA City Council Ad Hoc Committee on LA RIVER, Conservation Chair Garry George emphasized protections for shorebird habitat on the lower LA RIVER (an Audubon California IBA) from water management conflicts, and the creation of a Technical Advisory Committee of wildlife agencies and NGOs to provide guidelines and peer-reviewed science on restoration, revegetation and development on the entire LA RIVER. Currently, the city plans to create project EIRs on each piece of the River that is developed, and has created a programmatic EIR for the entire River. Los Angeles Audubon participated in that EIR process and participated as a Stakeholder on the Master Plan process. The EIR and Master Plan can be viewed here

Snowy Plovers get protection on LA County beaches!


Los Angeles County Beaches & Harbors have agreed to protect Western Snowy Plovers on Dockweiler State Beach. The decision was made aftera a four-hour meeting arrangefd by the County agency with Los Angeles Audubon's Conservation Chair Garry George, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Los Angeles Planning Commission, Los Angeles Fire Department Lifeguards, Coastal Commissioners Sara Wan andWilliam Burke and Tom Ryan of Ryan Ecological Consulting.

The coastal population of Western Snowy Plover was listed as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1993. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serivce designated portions of Dockweiler State Beach as critical habitat for the recovery of the Snowy Plover.  

Fencing will be placed at Dockweiler that iwll be 300 feet long, with sides of 100 feet at each end and open to the shoreline. The fence will be monitored by volunteers from the Snowy Plover program of Los Angeles Audubon, Santa Monica Bay Audubon and Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon. Los Angeles Audubon will also create a volunteer docent program to inform beachgoers about the birds and why they need to be protected.

There is more on the Snowy Plover program including reports, volunteer events and information on the birds on the Los Angeles Audubon website

LA AUDUBON joins LA COUNTY OHV COMMITTE

Los Angeles Audubon has joined a Stakeholders Committee to create a public process to consider how and if to develop siting criteria for OHV parks in Los Angeles County. The process is paid for by a grant from the State of California funded by green and red stickers on OHV.  Conservation Chair Garry George is representing LA Audubon in this process, and put the destruction of habitat by illegal OHVs in LA County on the agenda for full discussion before guidelines could be developed. For full details on the process go here

Thursday, July 31, 2008

LA AUDUBON SUPPORTS USF&W ON MANAGEMENT OF GRASSLANDS AT BITTER CREEK NWR


LA AUDUBON sent a letter supporting Preferred Alternative B Prescribed Seasonal Grazing as a Primary Strategy rather than year round grazing at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, the primary foraging area for California Condors in the Sespe Wilderness. This Alternate is the preferred alternative of the condor management team at USF&W Service, but might face opposition from ranchers and farmers on adjacent lands who want to graze the lands year round.


Read the management plan here