Councilmember Koretz has spearheaded several efforts to preserve local biodiversity as part of his #BioDiversifyLA project. Los Angeles is located within the California Floristic Province, one of only 33 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Biodiversity hotspots are areas that contain many species which cannot be found anywhere else on the planet, so it is vitally important to protect the habitats in which they live.
“As a changing climate becomes more and more apparent--through the drought, wildfires and increasing extreme storm events,” Councilmember Koretz says, “it is vital to catalog the plants and animals with whom we share Los Angeles, so we know what else we have to lose if we do not take action more quickly.”
The full text of each individual motion can be found by clicking on the links below.
Below is the press conference announcing the introduction of Councilmember Koretz’s biodiversity motion, which asks the City to catalog and protect its biodiversity. He is joined here by Hollywood’s famous mountain lion, P-22, and representatives from CLAW (Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife), the Natural History Museum, the National Park Service, Urban Wildlands, the Los Angeles Sanitation Department, the Nature Conservancy, and the Council for Watershed Health.
Councilmember Koretz has been invited by prominent local organizations to speak at a number of local biodiversity-related events, including moderating a panel on biodiversity at the Bay Foundation’s annual State of the Bay Conference.
This panel included CD-5 resident and past President of the Bel Air/Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council, Travis Longcore (far right).
Councilmember Paul Koretz gives a keynote speech below at the Council for Watershed Health’s symposium entitled, “Enhancing Urban Biodiversity: A Multi-Sector Approach for a Sustainable Los Angeles.”
The symposium explored the opportunities for protecting biodiversity that are presented by the region’s rapid growth in transportation, climate adaptation, green infrastructure and open space projects.
Wildlife Corridors motion
Los Angeles is located within the California Floristic Province, which is globally recognized as one of only 35 biodiversity hotspots on the planet and the only hotspot in the continental United States. What that means is that our region is filled with some of the richest varieties of plants and animals, and, from an ecosystem function point of view, some of the most important. The survival and well-being of the City’s residents also depend on ecosystem services provided by biodiversity, including air pollution reduction, water cleansing, and esthetic benefits. These services are built directly from an integrated ecosystem of natural biodiversity and sustainable urban landscapes. Unfortunately, that hotspot designation also means that our biodiversity is threatened with destruction.
The good news is, we can do something about it. Councilmember Koretz convened a yearlong public Biodiversity Stakeholder group which laid the groundwork for the motion he then authored to catalog, protect and enhance the City’s biodiversity. The City Council unanimously approved the motion and, led by LA Sanitation, launched an effort that resulted in the creation of an Expert Biodiversity Council and the eventual publication of a report measuring LA’s biodiversity via the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity.
Los Angeles is the first City in the United States to perform this measurement, joining Helsinki, Montreal, Lisbon and other global cities. More details about this effort, including the full report, can be found on the LA Sanitation website.
The local plants and wild creatures which can be positively impacted by this effort include: a range of native vegetation, including chaparral, coast sage scrub, vernal pools and coastal marshes, along with native wildlife -- including our world famous P-22 mountain lion, bears, bobcats, deer, foxes, bats, opossums, raccoons, skunks, coyotes -- hundreds of resident and migratory bird species, ocean creatures, many lizards and other reptiles, and more insects than anyone could name.
The next steps are to create an LA-specific Biodiversity Index, to develop a “no-net-loss” biodiversity strategy for the City and for City policies, and to do it all in such a way that we actively encourage and create access to biodiversity projects across the City, particularly in underserved areas.
Wildlife Corridors Motion
Councilmember Koretz's motion to create wildlife corridors and inter-connectivity through the hillside communities of Los Angeles was approved unanimously by the City Council. The animals in Griffith Park and the hills, including our famous Hollywood mountain lion, P-22, are trapped by freeways and development and are unable to escape to breed, which is resulting in inbreeding among deer, for one example. Creating a wildlife corridor does not negatively impact homeowners, instead, it ensures that, as homes are built, there is an allowance for an open corridor which allows wildlife to come and go. Animals which are not trapped are healthier, calmer and much easier with whom to share our urban community.
The Councilmember was dismayed to read a newspaper story that in California 92% of dead bobcats analyzed tested positive for rodenticides. Healthy bobcats have been dying of severe mange, a common skin disease caused by parasitic mites normally afflicting canines. After a little research, he found that rodenticide, also known as rat poison, is having a massive negative impact on raptors like hawks, owls, eagles and falcons, and on four-legged creatures like foxes, martens, minks, coyotes and mountain lions. In fact, our famous Hollywood mountain lion, P-22, was found to be poisoned by first generation rodenticide. He has, fortunately, survived, but the problem goes on.
With the partnership of CLAW (Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife), Councilmember Koretz introduced a motion calling on our City departments to find more sustainable ways of controlling the rodent and squirrel populations in our parks, including Griffith Park, in order to improve the health of our local ecosystems. As of 2014, the Rec and Parks Department stated that they have stopped using second generation rodenticides. Councilmember Koretz believes the City can go further to protect its wildlife and its domestic animal populations (cats and dogs have also been known to become ill by exposure to rodenticides).
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve Protection motion
Councilmember Koretz shares one of the hidden gems of Los Angeles with Councilmembers Martinez and Blumenfield, whose districts also border it. The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve is one of the few areas on the Los Angeles River specifically set aside for wildlife. With its willows and sycamores, migratory birds like Canadian geese, herons and egrets, and smaller birds like woodpeckers, orioles and goldfinches, and a myriad of other critters and fish, it is a haven of peace and rest for wildlife and Angelenos alike, a welcome oasis in the midst of our concrete jungle.
We have a crack team of environmental experts and concerned neighbors looking after it. In addition to our own Department of Rec and Parks, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee includes folks from the Encino and Lake Balboa Neighborhood Councils, the California Native Plant Society, the Audubon Society, the Canada Goose Project, the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, TreePeople, the Southwestern Herpetologist Society, and the River Project.
They were on the scene when the Army Corps of Engineers senselessly destroyed the South Wildlife Reserve a couple years ago and took the Councilmember out for a first-hand look at the destruction. They worked hard to institute better communication from the Army Corps going forward. They weigh in on any and all Army Corps proposals, including kayaking on the river. Most recently, they worked with our Los Angeles Police Department and brought the Councilmember a list of improvements in police enforcement which could be made to protect animals and birds from being hunted, bird eggs from being collected and plants from being stolen. All of which were sadly occurring. But not for long.
In December, 2015, the City Council approved an ordinance which provided the missing protections. We expect these changes to better protect the plants and wildlife going forward. Councilmember Koretz sends his appreciation to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee and looks forward to a continued strong relationship with them.
BioScan and BioBlitz Projects with the Natural History Museum
The District 5 office has also partnered with the LA Natural History Museum for two collaborative efforts. The first was the month-long BioSCAN effort, intended to identify the insects which live around City Hall as part of a larger effort to capture and examine previously unknown insect species in the Los Angeles area. In just one summer month, we identified several hundred species from over 90 families. Some are common backyard residents (Argentine ants, green lacewings, European honey bees), but the majority were surprising dwellers in our urban core.
Ants, bees, and wasps (all in the insect order Hymenoptera) are the largest group found in these traps in terms of diversity, but also the smallest in terms of size. Thousands of microscopic wasps only a few millimeters in size were collected, as well as 6 different species of bee. Low ant diversity was expected: the traps we used mainly to collect flying, not crawling, insects. Photos of some of the insects we collected can be seen below.
The second, related, effort was the BioBlitzLA project, in which LA residents spent a day as Citizen Scientists, photographing plants and animals around Grand Park and City Hall in order to help scientists understand the urban ecosystem within Los Angeles. A BioBlitz is a focused, several-hour endeavor intended to explore and document the wildlife and plant life on the grounds of Los Angeles City Hall and Grand Park. Dozens of volunteer “citizen scientists” were trained and set loose with their phones to photograph and share what they found on social media, so that the scientists at the Natural History Museum could better understand the nature we have here in LA. With a dedicated crew of 9 citizen scientists, we managed to document 28 species in 1 ½ hours, including orb weaver spiders, argentine ants, flower flies and fox squirrels.
To check out more of the Natural History Museum’s BioBlitz LA project, please check out their website on iNaturalist.org here.
Above, the Natural History Museum’s Dr. Brian Brown, Curator and Head of the Entomology Department, shows Andy Shrader, CD5 Director of Environmental Affairs, how to install a Malaise Trap atop City Hall South.”
All photos below taken by Kelsey Bailey and, along with information, used courtesy the Natural History Museum.