Editor’s note: Sarah Oberhauser is a former Santa Barbara resident now living in San Bernardino.
Santa Barbara was arguably the birthplace of environmentalism.
In response to the 1969 oil spill, a group of Santa Barbara residents created the “Santa Barbara Declaration of Environmental Rights.” This declaration addressed human-induced environmental degradation, and aimed to hold us accountable for the preservation of our natural world. Santa Barbara activists are the reason we celebrate Earth Day, and they helped usher in a new era of environmentalism.
Fifty-two years after the oil spill that started it all, Santa Barbarians have a new call to action.
Currently development of the San Marcos Foothill Preserve is beginning. Approximately 25 acres of this undeveloped indigenous land is going to be destroyed in order to build eight new luxury mansions. If you want the full story, visit sanmarcosfoothills.com. Telling you the construction plans is not the point of this piece.
The point is: You should be outraged.
You should be outraged by the environmental impacts of the proposed construction. The San Marcos Foothill Preserve is one of the only native grasslands left in California, and it is home to some of Santa Barbara’s most treasured and rare flora and fauna.
One particularly notable resident of this land is the burrowing owl, which is experiencing population decline largely due to habitat destruction and urbanization. Another easily recognizable inhabitant is the monarch butterfly, whose populations have decreased by 99% in California.
And these are only two examples from the hundreds of birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates that call this land home.
Anyone who has spent time in the San Marcos Foothill Preserve can attest to the diversity of wildlife there. From birders to artists to hikers to ecologists, they all recognize the importance of this ecosystem.
Yes, only 25 acres of the total 200 acres is being taken for development, but this will invariably have a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem. Building homes not only destroys the physical habitat, it also increases automobile traffic, noise pollution and light pollution, all of which will have a massive negative impact on wildlife. It will displace smaller prey animals, such as mice and rabbits, which will cause predator species, such as owls and white-tailed kites, to leave the area in search of a more plentiful food source.
Construction will also block wildlife from using migratory routes that their species have relied on for centuries.
As a population that has prided ourselves on our progressive history of environmentalism, we should be ashamed that we are allowing this crime against nature to occur.
You should be outraged that this local gem will soon be inaccessible to not only the wild inhabitants, but you too.
This land holds a special place in the hearts of many Santa Barbara residents. Families who bring their children, artists, photographers, birders, ecologists and biologists all treasure this land for its beauty and diversity.
And with all this, I have not even touched on the fact that this is indigenous land. For thousands of years, this was the home of the Chumash. At a recent rally against the development, one Chumash elder described how the land was a sacred connection to their ancestors.
When we see deforestation in the Amazon or plastic pollution in the oceans we feel disgusted and empowered to do something, but right now we are failing to recognize it in our own backyard. This construction project will directly harm wildlife and the hearts of the people who value the land.
And for what? Mansions. Are mansions for a few millionaires worth harming this incredible ecosystem? Is it right that only a few families will be enjoying the land that we were all once able to cherish?
Save the wildlife. Save the history.
Save the land.
What can you do? Visit sanmarcosfoothills.com and contact the developers and let them know what you think. You can call The Chadmar Group at 310-314-2590 or write them at 2716 Ocean Park Blvd., Suite 1064, Santa Monica 90405.