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The Ellwood coast, an undeveloped area of eucalyptus groves, grasslands and wildlife just beyond West Campus, is being threatened by a Fox – Randy Fox, that is. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ellwood coast, it is just a bike ride away from I.V. and contains abundant wildlife, including the tens of thousands of monarch butterflies that migrate to the eucalyptus groves every winter. This means that they are there to see right now.
Randy Fox, the owner of the 135-acre territory worth millions of dollars, is planning to develop the area for housing because he wants more money. At the public forum in the MultiCultural Center organized by the Environmental Affairs Board on Monday, Nov. 6, he discussed his proposal for a new community; the tentative plan is to build 29 homes and leave approximately 100 acres undeveloped. Of course, he is not going to discuss his plan to develop the entire area; that would cause too much havoc. At the forum, he made his proposal seem as benign as possible. However, the sweeping of hundreds of animals’ homes, the clearance of open grasslands and the destruction of a beautiful natural environment is anything but benign.
His proposal would construct 29 high-class, unaffordable houses in a community surrounded by the remaining grasslands and eucalyptus groves. In other words, a community surrounded by more available land to expand on. Once the original community is fully functioning – each house is built, lawns are sectioned off and clean-cut, luxury automobiles are cruising the neighborhood, school buses are making their routes – Randy Fox will be ready for more profit. He will not hesitate to put in another few streets of houses here, a community picnic area there, a few basketball courts, and hey, maybe a school too. It is only a matter of time before all the eucalyptus groves, vernal pools, grasslands and animals are replaced by brick walls, swimming pools, concrete and vehicles.
The only thing standing in his way will be some county paperwork, which won’t be too much of a problem after some money exchanges hands and negotiations are made.
At the public forum, I questioned Mr. Fox about the presence of monarchs during construction. Butterflies are extremely delicate creatures, and unusual amounts of dust in the air from bulldozing would ruin their wings and kill them. Mr. Fox replied, “Monarchs are not an endangered species.” I told him that that wasn’t the point and he assured me that there would be no construction during the migratory season and that he wants to see the monarchs remain on his land.
But does Randy Fox stand by his word? Building a housing community is no simple task. Construction is about setbacks, missing deadlines, extending deadlines and prolonging the period of construction to meet certain expectations. Is Fox truly going to cease construction in the middle of a project that is already behind schedule? Is he serious when he says the presence of butterflies is going to delay him from building his personal fortune? I do not see one reason why he would stop construction for the monarchs. Fox has already received three stop work orders from the county when he was caught with mechanized equipment and handsaws to cut trees on the land. The trees were removed and the stumps covered up.
At the forum Fox said it was only “maintenance.” He said he had already begun work on the land because he “didn’t want [the trees]” and that it was for “aesthetic purposes.” He argued that the trees were not essential to the monarch aggregation site and therefore, unnecessary.
But development does not only affect the monarchs. I asked Fox about his stance on the rest of the land pertaining to the other animals that live there. Ellwood provides a home for creatures such as foxes and gopher snakes, and the wide grasslands serve as hunting grounds for red-tailed hawks and great horned owls. In his reply, Fox basically told me that he didn’t give a shit about the other creatures. Apparently, he loves butterflies, but couldn’t care less about the baby chicks sitting helplessly in their nests, the squirrels chasing each other around, or the majestic turkey vultures scanning for carrion. He concluded that there are many other places in Santa Barbara for the “little critters” to run around. If all the major landowners have this attitude, we are doomed.
Many of you might think I am just an environment-loving freak who is jumping to conclusions about Ellwood. Well, I am an environment-loving freak, but had you attended the forum with Randy Fox, you would share my perspective. The future for all environments is grim. Fox is only worried about the money in his wallet, so he just wants to keep developing. He is not the only one; there are many like him. As humans expand into animal habitats, pillaging their homes, exploiting forests for lumber, contaminating water and polluting the air, they destroy the beauty of nature. Plant and animal species get the shaft from our ignorance when they become extinct. Or more importantly for all you entrepreneurs out there, our resources are destroyed, which means no more production of capital and no sustainability for the future. If we continue to follow the same path, there will come a day when there are no more forests, no more fish in the sea and no more areas like Ellwood for self-interested, greedy businessmen like Randy Fox to build on.
Lucas Novak is a sophomore law and society major.