2008 Project of the Year: Redondo Bluffs Restoration Project
Winner: Los Angeles Conservation Corps
In a collaborative effort between the LA Conservation Corps, local residents, the Urban Wildlands Group (local nonprofit), and state and local governments, the Beach Bluffs Restoration Project Team was formed to identify and restore locations within the South Bay that historically supported populations of the El Segundo Blue Butterfly, an endangered species known only to exist in 3 isolated reserves.
LACC’s SEA Lab is located in Redondo Beach on the Santa Monica Bay. The adjacent coastal bluffs are the historic home of the El Segundo Blue Butterfly. However, due to habitat loss, the butterfly population rapidly declined and the insect was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1976. In 2005, the Corps received funding from the California Coastal Conservancy to restore a small 3 acre site. For 2 years, more than 100 Corpsmembers removed invasive ice plant, constructed a native plant nursery, planted native vegetation, installed irrigation, fencing, and interpretive signage, conducted stakeholder surveys, and maintained the newly planted native landscape.
Although the Bluffs Restoration Project team hoped that one day the El Segundo Blues would return to the Redondo Bluffs, the scientific community believed due to habitat fragmentation and population isolation re-colonization of the butterflies could occur only via human assistance. In May 2007, as crews were wrapping up the project by adding vegetation and removing weeds, staff member Monica Acosta noticed a butterfly that looked suspiciously like the El Segundo Blue. She sent a few photos to USC experts for identification. A team of scientists surveyed the site and confirmed the presence of over 200 butterflies.
Sure enough, via the hard work of LACC Corpsmembers, the El Segundo Blue returned, on their own, to the Redondo Bluffs. The rapid return to the site so surprised the experts that it is now leading them to a new understanding of the species. Young folks from some of the neediest neighborhoods in LA made a difference, a huge difference, and proved that sometimes the impossible is just improbable.