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Love Birds Save Trees

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  • Marcia Hanscom
    Today s Los Angeles Times - with two large photos, including one that shows two Herons in a nest exhibiting beautiful courtship behavior and one that shows two
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2000
      Today's Los Angeles Times - with two large photos, including one that
      shows two Herons in a nest exhibiting beautiful courtship behavior and
      one that shows two CA Dept. of Fish & Game officials investigating the site.

      Friday, December 1, 2000

      Love Birds Save Trees

      Environment: Trimming limbs on a developer's property would wrongly
      displace courting herons, officials say.

      By GINA PICCALO, Special to The Times

      State animal wardens on Thursday halted a Marina del Rey developer from
      trimming cypress trees on his waterfront property because the job would
      unlawfully disturb several pairs of great blue herons nesting there.

      That decision came after an all-day standoff at the site, which began
      with a small predawn gathering of environmentalists. One bird lover
      perched on a branch to keep chain saws away from the tree at the end of
      Fiji Way. Later, a pruner's cherrypicker left the scene unused.

      Environmentalists and tenants of a nearby building slated for demolition
      claimed the warden's decision as a victory. They hope it's the first
      step toward protecting the trees year-round and stopping a plan to
      replace the aging apartments with a new $130-million luxury complex.

      "It shows that citizens can make a difference," said Marcia Hanscom,
      executive director of Wetlands Action Network, a group that has fought
      other proposed developments close to the coast.

      Developer Greg Schem said he hoped that trimming the trees would
      encourage the birds to nest elsewhere and allow him to cut down the
      trees and proceed with his construction project. Thursday afternoon's
      ruling won't stop his plans to demolish the nearby Villa Venetia
      apartment complex next year, he said. Schem said he will work out
      details with county officials.

      Environmentalists say the birds have claimed the trees for at least
      three years because they have nowhere else to go. Other nearby trees
      were cut down recently, they say.

      "I feel this is their last choice," Sierra Club biologist Roy van de
      Hoek said.

      This month, the birds are in their "courtship phase." The male heron
      displays spiky white feathers on his chest designed to catch the eye of
      a female. He even adjusts his flying posture so that he travels more
      slowly, but looks better doing it, biologists say.

      While animal wardens decided on the tree-trimming job, one heron stood
      in his nest of twigs and grass, facing the mile-long wetland with
      apparently unwavering concentration. "His whole objective now is
      watching for
      females," Van de Hoek said.

      The Villa Venetia complex sits on a prime piece of waterfront real
      estate between the ocean and the Ballona Wetlands. It also attracts
      endangered pelicans, hawks and ospreys.

      After several hours peering at the heron nests through binoculars and
      interviewing ornithologists, state Fish and Game Patrol Lt. Kent W.
      Smirl ruled that any tree-trimming would be illegal harassment of the
      birds and a misdemeanor violation of state code.

      No citations were issued to the developer, but federal Fish and Wildlife
      authorities were notified and Schem was ordered to report back to state
      authorities with more information on the herons.

      The great blue heron is not an endangered bird, but state code prohibits
      any "intentional act which disrupts an animal's normal behavior
      patterns." It is also illegal, according to state code, to "needlessly
      destroy the nest or eggs of any bird."

      Screenwriter Robin Hudson has watched the birds nesting from her
      third-floor apartment. She can point out every one of the nests in the
      40-foot cypress outside her window.

      "I've even saved some of [the birds]," she said. "They're so crowded up
      there that they knock each other out of the nest."

      Schem's consultant, Lee Jones, said he studied the birds for seven
      months before concluding that the fledging birds had grown to adulthood
      and vacated their nests. As a result, tree-trimming would not harm them,
      he said.

      "We wanted to find the appropriate time when we could encourage them to
      go elsewhere," Schem said. "We believe this is the proper time."

      If the birds were forced out of the trees by trimming, they probably
      would relocate in trees on the Playa del Rey hillsides, Jones said.

      "Worst-case scenario," Jones said, "they would go much farther away."


      (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
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      in receiving the included information for research and educational

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