Environmentalist banned from Wetlands

PLAYA DEL REY, Calif. The battle is over a tarpaulin, used by the Department of Fish and Game, to kill off the non-native ice plant, and then replace it with native vegetation.

The Ballona Wetlands are a playground for ground squirrels, red-tail hawks and marshland birds. Environmentalist Roy van de Hoek says the tarp project will kill too much in this fragile environment.

"Animals are suffocating and dying. Plants are wilting and the roots are being stressed," said van de Hoek.

Marcia Hanscom and van de Hoek are co-directors of the Ballona Institute. For four years they have held state permits to lead tours through the wetlands. Now they are banished after van de Hoek got into a confrontation with the preserve manager.

"I think that would be one concern that they think I might rip out the tarp, but I would not do that," said van de Hoek.

The 100-foot-long tarp is small in comparison to the 640 acres of wetlands that surround it. However, environmentalists are concerned that this is just the first of many tarps to go up throughout the area.

The California Coastal Commission approved the project saying: "It will not impact wetlands and other sensitive areas."

A Fish and Game spokesman says they have certified botanists and that they "are working with the best science available."

Ballona Institute's van de Hoek disagrees.

"It's going to eliminate micro-constituents to the soil that include positive molecules that help the roots to grow on plants. The sand that's under here is going to be very dry and sterile sand. And all kinds of weeds are going to come in," said van de Hoek.

Van de Hoek says they will continue the tours. However, now that their permit is revoked, they will only be able to take tours along the periphery of the wetlands.

Van de Hoek says he is going to appeal to the state to stop the tarp project. He says if that doesn't work, he will file a lawsuit.


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