Louis Sahagun recently wrote a brief but great story on a program at Dorsey High School that has kids helping to try bring the cactus wren to the new Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park.
The work they're doing includes restoration of cactus sage brush habitat and construction of artificial nests in an effort to bring back a bird that hasn't been seen in the area for a decade.
Sahagun writes that the work "part of an urban ecology campaign--organized by Dorsey, the Los Angeles Audubon Society and a local business, Earthworks Restoration Inc.--to transform selected inner-city youths into stewards of the environment."
But what really caught my attention were the views expressed by Stacey Vigallon, Los Angeles Audubon's director of interpretation:
"These students depend on the cactus wren for getting hands-on training to become informed citizens with an appreciation for a healthy environment and a green economy," she said. "The bird depends on them for habitat restoration and, in the not-too-distant future, votes on environmental issues crucial to its survival."This is where Vigallon and others have it right--and the San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority has it all wrong.
They simply fail to see the value that a living, breathing, intact wildlife sanctuary has for the community, for children and for the future of environmentalism.
"If future generations lack experiences in nature," writes Erica Gies in a recent issue of Land & People, "the motivation to support environmental and conservation programs could falter."
This is not an attack on the discovery center as a concept, but a defense of the Whittier Narrows Natural Area and of an approach that keeps the focus where it belongs: on nature and firsthand experiences of nature.
Sadly, the government agencies and water districts behind the discovery center seem to view the Natural Area as only a wasteland, an empty lot that needs the improvements of man.
But we should take a moment to consider how nature might improve us and how through that lesson all life might benefit.
Biologist Robert Michael Pyle gets the last word on this matter: "What is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never seen a wren?"