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Sunshine Canyon Harm Cannot Be Mitigated

January 16, 1994

* The North Valley Coalition has been opposed to the destruction of the Sunshine Forest ecosystem for many years. Turning this oak forest into a dump will represent the largest removal of land from a designated significant ecological area (SEA) in county history.

This is not a 200-acre deletion, as Don P. Mullally states (Valley Commentary, Jan. 9), but a 542-acre deletion that has already been approved. These SEAs were identified to be protected and remain as relics of what once was found throughout the region.

We share Mullally's desire to see more parkland, but the loss of this ecosystem, as even the county admits and the environmental impact report states, can never be mitigated. We are fighting for the preservation of all SEAs. Having BFI mitigate the loss by paying for a study of SEAs is rather like destroying Yosemite and mitigating it with a study of national parks.

As Mullally himself once wrote: "Changing the county master plan and causing the cancellation of 540 acres of a SEA, leading to complete biological destruction, sets a dangerous precedent. The entire SEA system, therefore is in jeopardy."

All of the dumps proposed by the county are either in SEAs or national forests.

We see here the danger of well-meaning environmentalists looking for trade-offs. Should Rustic Canyon be traded for parkland in Sullivan? Should Blind Canyon be sacrificed for land in Townsley? The coalition will never yield to pressure to pit one SEA against another. They all must be preserved.

The coalition has presented practical alternatives, such as adding landfill to already scarified land, long haul, increased recycling and composting. Rather than consider these alternatives, Mullally wants to accept a back-room deal that would sacrifice the irreplaceable forest and its use by future generations.

The project significantly puts a large animal and raptor population at risk. The approval by the county to remove 3,000 protected oaks (the largest permit for the removal of oaks in county history) and the intent to remove 8,600 oaks as the dump enlarges is, as Mullally once said, the "loss of the densest, most extensive and mature coast live oak forest and woodland in the Santa Susana Mountains."

Again we quote Mullally: "The full mitigation, the one recommended most highly, is no expansion of the landfill in Sunshine Canyon into unincorporated county land. . . . Destruction of the ecosystem cannot be mitigated, despite the arguments to the contrary by BFI." We still believe this to be true and are not being intractable, only faithful to a remarkable forest whose trees, plant communities and wildlife have no voices but ours.

MARY EDWARDS

Granada Hills

Edwards is the secretary of the North Valley Coalition.

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