66 Acres of Historic Los Cerritos Wetlands Protected (CA)

Long Beach, CA, 8/1/2006: The State Coastal Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority (LCWA), and Signal Hill Petroleum (SHP) announced today the purchase and permanent public protection of 66 acres along the San Gabriel River in the City of Long Beach. The property, which has been a focus of conservation efforts for more than two decades, will be restored as freshwater and tidal wetlands. This is a unique opportunity to reverse decades of degradation and restore the last historic coastal wetlands complex in a county where more than 95 percent of coastal wetlands have been developed and destroyed. After full restoration, the property will offer visitors opportunities for bird-watching, recreation, and environmental education.

“This purchase ensures that one of Southern California’s last historic wetlands will be protected and restored for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Reed Holderman, Vice President and Regional Director of The Trust for Public Land. “It is truly exciting to be able to preserve a piece of nature in the heart of Long Beach, where migratory birds can coexist peacefully with bikers and joggers just steps away from the hum of the City.”

“Just 75 years ago, the Los Cerritos Wetlands complex, formed by the natural meanderings of the San Gabriel River, covered about 1,500 acres. Today, just 400 acres remain,” said Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer of the Coastal Conservancy. “We have been working to restore what’s left of the Los Cerritos wetlands since 1980, and we are very happy to finally acquire a piece of those wetlands to do our work.”

The 300 acres of wetlands remaining in private hands after this acquisition are under two different private ownerships. Although much of the land has been degraded by decades of development, it is still home to a variety of wetlands life, including 89 different species of birds.

“The purchase of this 66 acre parcel is just the first step in our plans to protect and restore the historic Los Cerritos wetlands complex,” says Frank Colonna, Chair of the LWCA.

TPL has partnered with the Coastal Conservancy many times to protect and restore Southern California’s rapidly disappearing wetlands. In 2003, after nearly 30 years of battles between developers and environmentalists, TPL and the Conservancy worked together with others to permanently publicly protect 600-acres at the Ballona Wetlands – the largest historic, restorable wetland in Los Angeles County.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority will own and restore the degraded wetlands to their former beauty and ecological function. Funding for this acquisition was provided in part by the Coastal Conservancy, in the form of a $7 million grant, and by Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc., which will continue to operate the oil production facilities previously leased by Chevron. Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc. which purchased the mineral rights, was instrumental in creating this win-win situation for the Los Cerritos wetlands. Their operations will be coordinated with the restoration effort, and there are several precedents for the peaceful coexistence of active oil wells and public land use, particularly in this part of Southern California.

Dave Slater, Vice President for Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc., commented: “We are excited to be part of this unique public/private partnership that preserves two of California’s precious natural resources: coastal habitat and energy. Our company’s 25 years of experience operating oil wells in environmentally sensitive areas will be key to successfully restoring coastal habitat while continuing oil operations. We look forward to being a partner in this effort and in preserving these great resources for Long Beach and California.”

The successful outcome of this multi-year conservation effort was also the direct result of the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, a coalition of 18 public agencies working to acquire, restore, and manage the remainder of California’s South Coast wetlands.

The Coastal Conservancy is a state agency that works with the people of California to protect and improve the coast and San Francisco Bay. The conservancy has helped open more than 100 miles of coast and bay shores to the public and preserve almost 200,000 acres of wetlands, wildlife habitat, parks, and farmland.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority is composed of the Coastal Conservancy, the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, and the cities of Seal Beach and Long Beach. Its purpose is to provide for a comprehensive program of acquisition, conservation, and restoration of the Los Cerritos wetlands area consistent with the goals of flood protection and improved water supply and quality.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected 2 million acres nationwide. Earlier this year, TPL assisted in the permanent conservation of the El Encanto property near the City of Azusa and adjacent to the Angeles National Forest. Protection of the El Encanto property will preserve critical water supplies from the headwaters of the San Gabriel River. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. Find TPL online at www.tpl.org.