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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Monarch Sighting Should have Triggered Action

Several groups of “conservationists” have protested over the Oxford Basin, Oxford Retention Basin, Duck Pond removal of trees by the County. (See previous stories.)

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan Cotton.)

Last day of 2014 Jonathon Coffin took a picture with 48 Monarch butterflies “overwintering on one branch.” The branch was cut while raining with the butterflies nesting.

The following is Dr. Travis Longcore’s, of University of Southern California Spatial Sciences Institute, 5 January 2015 response to hearing about the cutting and shown the photograph. Letter was addressed to Erinn Wilson of the California Department of Fish and Game with cc to the California Coastal Commission representative Jack Ainsworth and to Joshua Svensson of the Department of Public Works.

Dear Erinn,

I’ve heard some conflicting things about the protection of Monarch butterflies at Oxford Lagoon in the past couple of weeks and am concerned that some definitional problems are coming into play.

I’m attaching a photograph showing a bare minimum of 48 monarch butterflies in a Eucalyptus tree at Oxford Lagoon at 2:51 pm in the afternoon on December 31, 2014. This photo was taken by Jonathan Coffin, who also counted the butterflies in the photograph. To be clear, this represents Monarch butterflies “overwintering” at Oxford Lagoon and should have triggered additional action by the regulatory agencies to protect this sensitive species, since the County’s consultant predicted that overwintering would not occur and therefore apparently no plans have been made to assess the significance of the loss or to mitigate it.

Some confusion might have arisen because there are two types of overwintering roosts. They are called different things, but often “autumnal” and “permanent”. “Autumnal” roosts are not used through the whole winter, but do constitute an overwintering habitat where Monarchs gather in numbers for some period of time in the late fall before the move on to other roosts. The Coastal Commission has in the past protected “autumnal” roosts of Monarch butterflies in other locations and recognized their importance in staff reports presented to the Commission.

At both types of roost, the Monarchs may stay put during the day when it is cool and foggy or may fly about and only roost at night when it is warm. It is still an overwintering site either way. No further information beyond the attached photograph and its date stamp is needed to confirm that Oxford Lagoon is a Monarch overwintering site.

For comparison, the 2014 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count reports data from 13 sites in Los Angeles (but not Oxford Lagoon). If Oxford Lagoon had been counted, it would have been the 6th largest roost in the County. Four roosts had no butterflies and the largest roost only had 180 butterflies. The full data are linked from this website: http://www.westernmonarchcount.org/data/

I hope this puts the observations at Oxford Lagoon in context. It is a Monarch overwintering site and and the 48 butterflies seen in one photograph — had they been seen on Thanksgiving — would have been enough to make it a significant site within the context of the County (a quarter of the number at the largest roost!), even if it is an autumnal roost or if the butterflies are not roosting on a warm day. The site is an overwintering site and disappearance of the roost is an impact that would need to be mitigated by the County.

I hope that DFW and the Coastal Commission might ensure that no further trees are cut, because doing so would represent an impact to a sensitive species that was not disclosed in the environmental review process, and more importantly so that we might maximize the chances that the Monarchs remain in this area into the future and be added to the annual Monarch count at a time when the species is being considered for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

I am sending this from my academic email because it represents my professional, scientific opinion, as someone who has worked on butterfly conservation in Los Angeles County for 20 years this year. It does not imply endorsement or approval by the University of Southern California.

Best regards,

An Osprey was also cited in the lagoon.

Patricia McPherson made the statement that if this is an overflow basin what is the worry with the present trees? This all should have been monitored.

Comments (2)

  1. Rick Swinger

    Good Work Travis! I had no idea this was happening. Let me know if I can help in any way.


  2. HowdyPropertyPartners

    The 5 LA Co supervisors that pushed this through should all be made to pay, out of their own pockets, the cost of transplanting mature trees of the same height back to the lagoon. Even if they have to sell their homes. Oh wait, that’s impossible because 1) trees of that size and grandeur can not be transplanted, and 2) criminals like them are never held accountable. SHAME! How do we get them recalled/fired? They are unfit for duty. Take note that Don Knabe has been worshipping Rick Caruso since the dawn of time & any money they’ve hand a back door handshake on another tacky middle-America looking retail project

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