Hansen Dam Use – An Open Letter

To Whom It May Concern:

The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society and Los Angeles Audubon Society are California non profit corporations with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and certified chapters of National Audubon Society. Our mission is to enjoy and protect birds and their habitat through recreation, education, conservation and restoration. We have recently become aware of the War Horse and Militaria Heritage Foundation’s proposal to create a multiple use equestrian park within the boundaries of the larger Hansen Dam Recreation area, adjacent to the Tujunga Wash. While our organizations do not object to the creation of such a facility, we are opposed to the War Horse and Militaria Foundation’s first choice of siting—East of Gabrieleno Park, under the Edison Power Lines and on the land to the East of the power line.

Hansen Dam has been identified as an Audubon California Important Bird Area (IBA), a national designation which acknowledges its biodiversity. Its unique mix of habitat for birds include coastal sage scrub and alluvial scrub, a very rare habitat limited to southwestern California with bird community similar to that of coastal sage scrub. The area (including adjacent gravel pits) supports Lesser Nighthawk, Greater Roadrunner, Costa’s Hummingbird, Cactus Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, as well as several other sensitive vertebrates nearly gone from the Los Angeles Area, including San Diego Black-tailed Jackrabbit and probably also San Diego Horned Lizard. Hansen Dam also supports a wide diversity of wintering passerines with Christmas Bird Counts typically finding over 100 species. Recent developments such as the construction of a large golf course have already reduced the amount of native vegetation and habitat considerably. Large public events at Hansen Dam like the Fourth of July celebration have also put stress on local wildlife.

We strongly oppose the first choice of siting for the multiple use equestrian park (as indicated in the Warhorse and Militaria Foundation Project Description) because the area east of the Edison power lines contains some of the last remnants of alluvial sage scrub habitat in Los Angeles County. This habitat may be representative of the historical vegetation which covered the alluvial fan across the eastern San Fernando Valley and is comprised of chaparral yucca, prickly pear cactus, cholla and elderberry. Alluvial Sage Scrub Habitat supports numerous native butterflies and invertebrates, as well as the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo and the endangered California Gnatcatcher. It also is breeding territory for Cactus Wrens.

On April 19, Kimball Garrett, Ornithology Curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History led a Los Angeles Audubon and San Fernando Valley Audubon Hansen Dam Task Force to tour the multiple use equestrian park project site as defined in the War Horse and Militaria Foundation’s own project description. The team also included the Executive Director of Los Angeles Audubon, Garry George and San Fernando Valley Audubon Co- Conservation Chair Kris Ohlenkamp. This survey found that the area to the East of the Edison right of way is excellent alluvial sage scrub habitat. Our team observed nesting pairs of cactus wrens in the project area, as well as an endangered California Gnatcatcher and an endangered Least Bell’s Vireo within a few hundred yards of the proposed project area. It is our belief that increased equestrian and human activities could affect the adjacent alluvial scrub habitat outside the project area.

In conclusion, we find that the first choice of the project area is improper, as it would impair and degrade unique and irreplaceable habitat, while jeopardizing endangered species. We urge you to require that an Environmental Impact Report be required for this project and to support the War Horse and Militaria’s second choice of project area, across from the Hansen Dam Sports Area.

Sincerely,

Seth Shteir, Vice President
San Fernando Valley Audubon

Garry George, Executive Director
Los Angeles Audubon