MEDIA RELEASE: Government Bodies Stomp On Democracy To Start Bulldozing LA’s Last Coastal Wetlands

MEDIA RELEASE: Government Bodies Stomp On Democracy To Start Bulldozing LA’s Last Coastal Wetlands

LOS ANGELES (Dec. 20, 2022) — In Defense of Animals is outraged at being denied the opportunity to speak at this month’s public hearing of the California Coastal Commission on a matter related to a highly controversial plan for the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. The proposed industrial alteration of the landscape at Los Angeles’ last coastal wetlands would excavate more than 2 million cubic yards of soil and essentially obliterate a mosaic of fragile coastal ecosystems.

At issue is a permit to allow invasive borings at Ballona Wetlands. Without hearing expert testimony, the California Coastal Commission has voted to cut down trees and allow huge trucks and boring machines to enter palustrine marsh areas, which will mash down the soils where food exists for rare and imperiled species. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is the applicant and calls it a “restoration,” while environmental and wildlife advocates call it a “restoration scam.”

In Defense of Animals was poised to share important evidence about the rare species who will be impacted by this project proceeding, even in the form of the borings being allowed into these fragile marsh areas, as well as future destructive measures that are planned.  

In Defense of Animals’ Lisa Levinson, long-time Ballona Wetlands activist leader Marcia Hanscom, and environmental scientist, Robert Roy van de Hoek, were all denied comment. Each had submitted powerpoint presentations the day before, as required.  

I’m sorry Ms. Christensen. I’ve closed the public hearing. I think that we got all of the public comment that we really, truly needed.”

— Donne Brownsey, California Coastal Commission Chair

“What we witnessed was a slap in the face to everyone who cares about wildlife in Los Angeles and a blow to democracy. We are shocked by the dismissive and cavalier response of the commission chair to a Long Beach advocate who attended in-person and informed the commission that there were still important voices to be heard. We had waited all day on the Zoom to relay vital information on behalf of thousands of caring Californians who want to halt the destruction of Ballona Wetlands,” said Lisa Levinson, Campaigns Director for In Defense of Animals.

In Defense of Animals is reviewing legal options to correct what many believe may be a violation of the state’s open meeting laws that protect democracy. This aspect of public participation has long played an important role in informing decisions made by public bodies. The commission suppressed the voices of speakers from several environmental organizations. In Defense of Animals alone represents over 38,000 Californians.

“In more than 30 years as an advocate at California Coastal Commission meetings, I’ve witnessed numerous times when private landowners were denied permits because of the presence of species like the imperiled white-tailed kite, who feed regularly in the very area the California Department of Fish & Wildlife wants to decimate with their massive machines. It’s despicable that the commission chair prevented this key evidence from being shown to the other commissioners,” said Hanscom, a community organizer working with Defend Ballona Wetlands.

“The chair’s actions prevented commissioners from seeing the rare animals who would be impacted and likely killed by their decision, including the monarch butterfly and the white-faced ibis,” added Levinson.

Levinson and Hanscom, joined by many others in the community coalition Defend Ballona Wetlands, want the public to know that this highly invasive and destructive project planned by the State of California would mostly benefit the fossil fuel industry. Critics contend the primary beneficiary is SoCalGas, whose aging gas storage facility lies deep beneath the wetlands and needs to be upgraded to remain in operation.

“Industrial works planned at Ballona Wetlands would ease future installations of new fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we should be phasing out oil and gas facilities. Bulldozing Ballona Wetlands is a double blow to the environment since it will immediately wipe out rare wild animals living in this critical habitat and later prop up dirty energy that is worsening the climate crisis and pushing wild animal species to extinction,” explained Levinson.

The highly controversial bulldozing plan, rubber-stamped by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, would raze Los Angeles’ last coastal wetlands and the animals who live there. The reserve is about one square mile and home to 1,700 species, including foxes, owls, egrets, skunks, rabbits, pelicans, and many other wild animals, including some threatened and endangered species. The State Coastal Conservancy recently approved nearly $2 million to fix some engineering mistakes it made and sell the sham to the public.

The public has voiced overwhelming opposition at public hearings, town halls, and protests. The bulldozing plan is now the subject of six lawsuits. The Los Angeles City Council voted to ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to shut that fossil fuel facility down. A similar facility in Aliso Canyon was the scene of a gas blowout several years ago that ranks as one of California’s worst environmental disasters.

Over 10,000 people have contacted Gov. Newsom, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and local legislators urging them to abandon the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's plans to bulldoze Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. Decision-makers are being called on to support the “Gentle Alternative” for Ballona before it's too late for the thousands of animals who live there, including federally protected endangered species.

Thirty-eight organizations have joined forces with In Defense of Animals to oppose the plans, including the Sierra Club, Los Angeles Audubon Society, Ballona Ecosystem Education Project, Ballona Institute, the Canyon Back Alliance, the Coalition to Preserve LA, and the Resource Renewal Institute.

To stop this boondoggle, members of the public are encouraged to take action and sign this alert:


### NOTES ###

Cal Span video:

7:33:30 (not heard on video - Anna Christensen, of Sierra Club Los Cerritos Wetlands Task Force, informed the Commission Chair that Marcia Hanscom, Lisa Levinson from In Defense of Animals and others were still waiting on Zoom to be called on)

“I’m sorry Ms. Christensen. I’ve closed the public hearing. I think that we got all of the public comment that we really, truly needed.” 

— Donne Brownsey, California Coastal Commission Chair

Images of Ballona Wetlands (free for use with credit per filename):

Images of similar works at Malibu Lagoon (free for use with credit per filename):




In Defense of Animals: Lisa Levinson,, 215-620-2130
Defend Ballona Wetlands: Marcia Hanscom,, 310-877-2634

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 39-year history of fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.

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