The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is sponsoring a conference Friday on the future of Los Angeles County's Significant Ecological Areas, or SEAs--plant and wildlife habitats that are under strong development pressure.
The daylong conference is meant to bring together planning officials, wildlife experts and citizen activists to discuss the future of the 61 SEAs, more than half of which are in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys and the Santa Monica Mountains.
"There are so many people out there that either don't know what an SEA is . . . or what protections they're supposedly afforded," said Carolyn Barr, a project analyst with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, an affiliate of the mountains conservancy.
The idea is to "get all the players together to share that kind of information" and figure out "what each player can do" to assure the SEAs' survival, she said.
The individual SEAs were designated in the county's 1980 General Plan. They were chosen for their value as habitat for native plants and animals, or as strongholds of threatened species. Others were selected as the finest remnants of natural settings once common in Southern California.
The General Plan did not bar development in SEAs but said building in the areas should receive special scrutiny and be compatible with the natural resources. The county also committed itself to trying to buy the most threatened SEAs, but no acquisition program was ever started.
Over the years, some SEAs have been nibbled by development, while others have been spared by their remote location. But with other open space dwindling, housing and commercial projects, roads and even garbage dumps are being planned for SEAs.
Barr said she hopes the conference will attract up to 200 participants, and give birth to a coalition of park planners and citizens to work on SEA protection.
The conference will begin at 9 a.m. at the Sooky Goldman Nature Center in Franklin Canyon Park, in the mountains north of Beverly Hills. Access to the center is via Beverly Drive. Registration fee for the conference is $15.