When the state gave a green light to the reconstruction of Ballona Wetlands in December of 2020, part of that approval was the Environmental Impact Report required to consider the factors involving the wildlife, both flora and fauna.
Nature photographer Jonathan Coffin found something significant at the wetlands, “A Crotch’s Bumble Bee visiting a Sour Fig ice plant flower along the Ballona roadside.” This specific bee is a species on the endangered list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. “It’s not a federally protected endangered species, but it does have an international [protected] status.”
Coffin could be credited with a crucial discovery. “It matters because the current EIR for a massive earth moving project missed the presence of this Endangered Bee which they should have known was there. What else did they miss?”
His discovery of the bee was confirmed by entomologist John Asher on iNature, an app sponsored by NatGeo. Asher confirmed the species and the date of April 19, 2021 was recorded for the site. Coffin has been looking for the bee for many years, along with other species he has been photographing in the wild.
“I’ve known the Crotch’s Bumble Bee had been recorded at Ballona in the past by reading the 1981 Los Angeles County, Biota of the Ballona Region. That report by Ralph Shreiber is a more extensive survey of the insect life at Ballona. The Crotch’s Bumble Bee wouldn’t have been on the IUCN Red List as endangered when it was recorded in the early 80’s at Ballona.”
The controversy over how Ballona should be moved into recovery, with major engineering and redesign or with milder removal of non-native plants and re-landscaping is the point of multiple lawsuits currently in process by the Sierra club and other environmental entities. The approval given by the State of California in December is the point of contention.
Restoration Ecologist Dr. Margot Griswold called the discovery of the bee “significant, because this species was previously documented in surveys conducted in the early 1980’s within the area. Thus, this species persists over at least 40 years within what is left of the historic Ballona Wetlands. The existing biodiversity of the wetlands needs to be valued, and perhaps, should be enhanced and rehabilitated rather than engineered away.”
Coffin hopes that his discovery can have a positive impact. “Once I learned this was correct I went through my archive of photos and found a photo I had taken back in May 2020 which was also the Crotch’s Bumble Bee. So I have photos of two consecutive years of Crotch’s Bumble Bee on the Ballona Wetlands which demonstrates a continuity of presence with the earlier 1981 Shreiber Report. I think the IUCN Endangered Crotch’s Bumble Bee discovery today is important because it demonstrates how the current EIR recently released for a massive project is lacking in protecting existing biological conditions of Ballona today. The Crotch’s Bumble Bee is out of sight and out of mind for protection. What else are we missing?”
Judith Martin- Straw
Photo Credit – Jonathan Coffin