Fellow Story

Jensen plays central role in response to bulldozing of endangered plants in Topanga State Park

Fellow(s): Nick Jensen

Crews for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power recently bulldozed hundreds of federally endangered plants in Topanga State Park, and both state and city authorities have launched investigations into DWP’s actions, part of a wildfire prevention project aimed at replacing 200 aging wooden power poles with steel ones.


“In response to recent community concerns about protected plants in the construction area, the LADWP has halted construction and is working with biologists and other experts to conduct an investigation and assessment of the site,” Stephanie Spicer, a spokeswoman for the city water and power agency, said late Wednesday in response to inquiries from The Times.

In a separate incident this year, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works apparently encased federally threatened red-legged frogs in cement while making emergency repairs to a culvert in a portion of nearby Leo Carrillo State Park, which is vulnerable to heavy debris flows because of last year’s Woolsey fire.

Both events, not previously publicized by the agencies involved, have recharged debate over balancing wildfire safety and protecting fragile ecological resources following big blazes, including last year’s deadly Camp and Woolsey fires — and the Tubbs fire the year before that.


During a recent visit to Topanga State Park, Nick Jensen, a conservation analyst for the nonprofit California Native Plant Society, suggested a bright side to the Topanga controversy.

“We’re not against replacing these old wooden poles,” he said. “But we are demanding a plan from the city, county and regulatory agencies on how we can go forward with urgent fire safety projects without these kinds of things happening again.”

Jensen picked up a handful of broken milk vetch stems laden with seedpods. “So, we may be looking at the milk vetch that roared,” he said.

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Additional Resources

LADWP under fire for bulldozing habitat of rare, protected plant in Pacific Palisades, ABC 7, Los Angeles