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Ballona Wetlands Receives $50,000 Grant from Sempra

Sempra Energy Foundation awarded a $50,000 Environmental Champions Award to the Friends of Ballona Wetlands (FBW), Los Angeles’ preeminent wetlands education and preservation group, which will help the organization continue its stewardship and protection of the environmentally sensitive Ballona Wetlands.

The Friends’ award was one of thirty Sempra grants totaling $1 million, awarded to Southern California non-profits, focused on natural resource protection and conservation, environmental education, and environmental health and safety. Hundreds of non-profits applied by writing grant proposals last September; the Friends join such Los Angeles area recipients as TreePeople and The Audubon Center at Debs Park as grant winners.

“We are grateful for Sempra Energy Foundation’s support of our educational efforts to help each of the 1.6 million residents of our 128-acre Ballona watershed become active stewards of our local environment,†said Richard Beban, co-executive director of FBW. “We are pleased to be working with the Foundation in our local community to produce sustainable and responsible environmental change.”
The grant will go to support the hands-on educational and service-learning experiences that the Friends offer to an ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse population of approximately 5,500 visitors a year to the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve—the salt marsh, dunes, upland and freshwater marsh habitats—and in various community settings. Half of these individuals are students from underserved communities.

“When I look at the prior accomplishments of this hard-working, mostly volunteer, grassroots environmental organization, I am genuinely impressed by their accomplishments during times of recession and their continued commitment to provide educational programs and events focused on environmental stewardship,†said Frank Urtasun, executive director of the Sempra Energy Foundation. “We look forward to supporting The Friends of Ballona Wetlands and helping them expand their mission to make positive impacts on our local quality of life and environment through daily choices.â€

“The people we reach come to understand how important these remaining wetlands are to the entire region,” said Lisa Fimiani, the Friends’ co-executive director. “We also focus on the importance of ‘upstream’ best management practices, so urban runoff—including household toxics, litter, and dog waste—doesn’t enter the watershed. Engaging students and families that live east of the wetlands and as far away as Pico-Union, Hollywood, and even Beverly Hills, helps them understand how their actions can either positively or negatively affect the health of the coastal rivers, wetlands and bays that connect to the Pacific Ocean.”

Ballona’s 600 acres are a remnant of an estuarine wetlands system that once covered more than 2,000 acres. Friends of Ballona Wetlands was formed in 1978 to protect and defend the wetlands, which are part of the Pacific Flyway, and which provide crucial habitat for hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife.

The Friends of Ballona Wetlands works in partnership with the California Coastal Conservancy, the California Department of Fish & Game, and the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority, which have authority over the State-owned Ecological Reserve. FBW programs have served the greater Los Angeles area by providing hands-on restoration opportunities to more than 65,000 volunteers since 1994.

The mission of the thirty-one year-old non-profit is to champion the restoration and protection of the wetlands, and to involve and educate the public as advocates and stewards.

For more information, www.ballonafriends.org
www.sempra.com/community/foundation/index.htm>

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