'Battle Cry Echoes in Canyons' as Ecologists Fight Developers

A great, green bravo to Tammerlin Drummond for a thorough article that revealed the extent to which Southern California canyons have become battlegrounds between environmentalists and developers ("Battle Cry Echoes in Canyons," June 23).

Shopping malls and tract house developments along with their freeways (and now proposed toll roads) have concrete-ized the flatlands and polluted our air and water. Now they are threatening the region's last pristine frontiers--our wet and green canyons.

While abundant in peace and tranquility, Orange County's legendary canyons--Laguna, Modjeska, Trabuco and Silverado--are also important sanctuaries for endangered plants and animals. Here, native ecological diversity still prevails.

If we do not resolve these battles, large mammals such as mule deer, bobcat and mountain lion, as well as endangered plants such as the Dudleya stolonifera (which grows nowhere else in the world but Laguna Canyon) will be gone before this year's kindergartners graduate from high school.

While it may be true that "until our pants are on fire, we never bother to pay attention to what's going on," many in the South County have been fighting for open-space preservation for decades.

Such is the case with respect to Laguna Canyon. In early 1988, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy was formed and swiftly became Orange County's most demonstrative environmental organization.

Last November, it galvanized 8,000 protesters to walk in Laguna Canyon. It looks like that act pulled the landowner, the Irvine Co., away from the bulldozer's drive stick and sent him walking to the negotiating table.

But the Canyon Conservancy followed a group known as the Laguna Greenbelt Inc., which, since 1968, has negotiated with the developer and helped others secure 15,000 preserved acres of native plant and animal habitat in the Laguna Greenbelt.

The last piece of the greenbelt lies in Laguna Canyon, and that is the piece the Irvine Co. would like to develop. It's the piece that links major open-space acquisitions together, forming one viable and sustainable Southern California greenbelt. If it is lost, from an ecological standpoint, the wildlife many not survive.

According to The Times, Irvine Co. Vice President Larry Thomas asks if current efforts to secure the disputed land by a contemplated bond initiative are realistic. "Is the property so important," he asks, "that people will pay for it?"

Yes, Mr. Thomas, the environment is that important! But, let me ask the Irvine Co. this: With respect to what the property is worth, is $70 million your realistic asking price?

SHAREN HEATH

Laguna Beach

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
62°