LOS ANGELES, May 13, 2021— The Center for Biological Diversity urged Los Angeles County officials today to enhance the ecological function of the L.A. River in its master plan, rather than placating outside interests by supporting harmful development projects.

Today’s comment letters respond to the Department of Public Works’ proposed L.A. River Master Plan. The draft plan, released in January, would lead to harmful developments along the river, jeopardizing native species and displacing local communities, the letter notes. The Center’s comments urge county leaders to consider the needs of local residents and native species, not architecture firms and developers.

“Los Angeles has a chance to dream big. It can bring the river back to its wild state and provide healthy recreational opportunities for all Angelenos,” said Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat, a campaigner at the Center. “Instead, the county has come up with a plan that allocates scarce public dollars to fancy development projects. Angelenos and local wildlife deserve better.”

When the L.A. County Board of Supervisors considers the final version of the master plan, the letter says, community input should be at the forefront of the decision-making process.

In 2019 the county solicited public input on values to be included in the draft master plan. But the plan dismisses dechannelization as a critical component of habitat restoration and lacks safeguards against the displacement of local communities.

A successful master plan that repairs habitat could be critical to the L.A. River watershed, which sits within one of the world’s most diverse Mediterranean-climate biodiversity hotspots. Despite the damage from channelization, the soft bottom areas along the 52-mile-long river and its watershed provide habitat for imperiled species such as mountain lions, coastal California gnatcatchers and arroyo toads.

The proposed plan also conflicts with the county’s 2019 OurCounty Plan target of “no net loss of native biodiversity.”

“We’re in the midst of a global crisis, with species going extinct at up to 1,000 times the background rate,” said Reid-Wainscoat. “If the county wants to live up to its own goals to fight the extinction crisis and protect biodiversity, it needs to articulate a clear vision of ecosystem and community health that’s backed by metrics and policies for all future projects along the river.”

Public comments are due by 5 p.m. Thursday.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org