An editorial by Wendy Langhans, Interpretive Naturalist, looks at the future of Elsmere Canyon
Elsmere Canyon is the wrong place to build estates
This week I want to write about Elsmere Canyon, why it is important ecologically and damage that would be caused by the building “luxury estates” there.
Elsmere Canyon background:
Elsmere Canyon includes some of the remaining 3-5% of original riparian habitat in Southern California. It is part of the Greenbelt, the area that separates the Santa Clarita Valley from the San Fernando Valley. Like other sections of the remaining open space in Santa Clarita, this area is threatened by development.
Elsmere Canyon is located south of SR 14 and west of Whitney Canyon. In March, the MRCA accepted a donation of 400 acres of land in Elsmere Canyon from Allied Waste, parent company of Browning-Ferris Industries. But that’s only about 1/3 of the 1,125 acres in Elsmere Canyon that are privately held. Currently, there are plans to build “luxury estates” throughout the remaining open space.
Elsmere Canyon is part of the watershed:
It sits on the divide between two watersheds, the Santa Clara River and the Los Angles River. As you may remember learning in school, a drop of rainwater landing on the north side of the divide has the potential to flow into the Santa Clara River and on to the Pacific Ocean near Ventura. A drop of rainwater landing on the south side of the divide has the potential to flow into the Los Angeles River and on to the Pacific Ocean near Long Beach.
This is also true of any chemicals that are used on the landscaping around a “luxury estate” such as fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides.
In addition, construction will replace water permeable soil with impermeable surfaces such as roads, patios, and houses. This will increase the amount of water run-off and the potential for flooding downstream.
Elsmere Canyon contains a critical section of the wildlife corridor:
The Los Pinetos Undercrossing is the only safe wildlife passage under SR14, between the Angeles National Forest and the Newhall Wedge (the area between SR14 and the I-5). It is adjacent to the privately held land in Elsmere Canyon. If this passage is blocked by development, the wildlife corridor will be severed.
Elsmere Canyon contains habitat necessary for animals to survive:Elsmere canyon contains riparian habitat, which is defined as the area adjacent to streams or riverbanks. It is some of our most productive habitat; 25% of California’s land mammals depend upon riparian habitat.
What happens when you develop that riparian habitat with “luxury estates”? You introduce light and noise pollution, which limits the amount of land suitable for nesting. You introduce animals that thrive where humans live, such as Argentine ants (that replace the native ants eaten by Horned lizards) and rodents (that eat bird eggs). You replace nutritious native vegetation such as willows and introduce non-native or invasive vegetation such as arundo.
Building “luxury estates” in Elsmere Canyon is poor land-use decision because it pollutes the watershed, destroys a rare and productive riparian habitat and severs a wildlife corridor. It provides benefits to a few at a cost to many.
What you can do.
Vote. There is currently a ballot measure before the voters in the City of Santa Clarita to create an Open Space Preservation District, which would provide funding to purchase additional open space in the Greenbelt and increase the likelihood of receiving matching fund from other government agencies. In the Engineer’s report, the City has identified 5 key areas for potential acquisition that support the Greenbelt’s key ecological functions. That is one of many reasons why the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy supports the measure.
As citizens, you can also attend county and city planning meetings, to encourage ecologically sound and enlightened decision making. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;… whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
Our next Full Moon Hike is at Towsley Canyon on Friday, June 29, from 7:30-9:30 PM. Towsley Canyon is located on The Old Road, 1/4 mile south of the Calgrove exit off the I-5.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For our complete hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com.
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