‘Vital habitat’ at LAX Dunes sees resurgence of endangered native species

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – A vacant coastal property near LAX can get a little noisy, but some of Southern California’s most endangered species thrive there.

The booming noise on the 200-acre parcel of land above Dockweiler Beach is why the neighborhoods once known as Palisades Del Rey and Surfridge Estates are gone. Some of the roads remain but no sign of the luxury homes that drew celebrities and socialites in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Although the deserted landscape is an eyesore to some, it is not lifeless. In fact, environmentalists are excited about what’s going on there.

Tammi McCrossen-Orr, director of environmental sustainability and compliance for LAWA, says this is a really special area.

The LAX Dunes, owned by LA World Airports since the 1970s, are experiencing a resurgence of native wildlife. Endangered species such as the blue butterfly El Segundo have returned to the southernmost dunes.

“It’s a safe area. It’s a protected area for these species and it’s important for the survival of all species,” McCrossen-Orr said.

Decades of efforts to remove roads continue to make way for native habitat to thrive. A 2014 agreement between LAWA and the Coast Commission accelerated efforts, and new partnerships with environmental groups such as The Bay Foundation show real promise.

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“It’s not just some sort of fenced property, but it’s really vital habitat and restoration is underway,” said Chris Enyart of the Bay Foundation.

McCrossen-Orr says one of the best markers of success in habitat restoration is the return of some threatened and endangered species to the federal level. Two of the most notable are the California gnat and the burrowing owl.

There’s also a legless lizard and the San Diego horned lizard, both of which now call the dunes. Some native plants are also making a comeback.

“There’s really nowhere else like the LAX Dunes in Southern California. It’s a pretty unique and amazing habitat,” Enyart said.

Although the dunes are protected, the Bay Foundation hosts community events where the public is invited to volunteer to participate in the clean-up and restoration process.

“It’s important for the community to remember the beauty of our coastline and maybe cherish some space without development,” said McCrossen-Orr.

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