Wetlands defender honored after death

Jan Vandersloot, a founding member of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, will be honored posthumously for his dedication to preserving the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

The late Newport Beach resident on Sunday will be recognized as an outstanding wetlands community leader by the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

The award is part of the National Wetlands Awards Program that honors six individuals who have contributed to the preservation of the country’s wetlands through education, restoration or activism.

“He was just a huge person in the environmental community in Southern California,” said Flossie Horgan, the land trust’s executive director. “We’re very proud and very grateful that he’s recognized at the national level.”


Vandersloot, a longtime environmentalist, died Nov. 4 at the age of 64.

The day he died, he won a battle with a land developer to preserve the Cabrillo Wetlands, a 2-acre salt marsh in Huntington Beach.

“My dad was someone who was very much connected to nature at a young age,” said his son, Jon Vandersloot.

Jan Vandersloot spent almost 20 years fighting for the preservation of the Bolsa Chica. He was the co-founder of the land trust, a group dedicated to preserving the wetlands.


The group sued the California Coastal Commission over its decision to allow the wetlands to be developed and won on appeal.

The judgment created a legal precedent in the state known as the “Bolsa Chica Decision,” which protects environmentally sensitive areas, Horgan said.

Horgan said she thinks Vandersloot would have been extremely pleased to be given the award, but is not sure he would have taken time to go the award ceremony with the number of city council, California Coastal Commission and Planning Commission meetings he always attended.

“He just was totally committed to the work,” Horgan said.

Jon Vandersloot said his father wasn’t someone who sought accolades, but is glad people will fully understand how much his father did.

“He was kind of the backbone of everything,” he said.

Vandersloot’s wife, Cheryl, son Jon and daughter Tiffany are planning on accepting the award at the U.S. Capitol’s Visitor’s Center on Capitol Hill on Sunday.