Tidal marsh or ‘fake habitat’? California environmental project draws criticism
LOS ANGELES — There was something not quite right about a California environmental group’s creation, a large artificial tidal marsh that has been described in news media reports this year as part of a so-called “water park” and a habitat for threatened species. Now critics say its creators and some of its supporters have given it a misleading and false air of legitimacy to promote an unsustainable project.
On May 10, a group called the Citizens for Tidal Wetlands brought its first public demonstration to the beachfront community of La Jolla, Calif. There, they invited people to show their support for the formation of a $28 million project near the city. The group called itself the “People’s Movement Against Tidal Wetland.”
The group invited about 50 people to make two presentations on the project at a local high school, where it presented a video of people who have protested against the project and who showed up with placards showing pictures of dead birds and dead fish along the shore and beach.
The group also presented photos showing birds and fish on the beach, as well as videos of what its members believe is a thriving environment, such as a turtle that has a full nest of eggs.
There was no doubt about the group’s intentions, and its leaders seemed eager to draw attention to the project through a simple and easy method: a media event. The leaders even invited their followers to make a donation and pledge support to the group.
Civic groups that claim to be environmental activists are nothing new in the United States, but the Citizens for Tidal Wetlands was especially bold. The group’s founders presented their project as a way of saving the “natural habitat” of the Pacific Ocean and the endangered California rockfish.
It’s unclear how many people were actually in attendance to hear the presentation, and some media reports said just 300 people showed up. The event, however, brought a flood of criticism.
An online petition calling on the group to remove