This Activist is Fighting to Protect LA’s Verdugo Mountains and Wildlife

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October 16, 2023

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Animals, Environment, Features

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(LOS ANGELES) No Canyon Hills is a coalition working to stop the development of luxury houses in the Verdugo Mountains of Tujunga, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. The Verdugo Mountains are home to more than 350 species, including several that are protected or threatened. 

In response to the developer’s plan, Emma Kemp and Mateo Altman, residents of Tujunga, founded No Canyon Hills (NCH).

The Click caught up with Kemp, who also serves as the executive director of NCH, at a climate festival and benefit for the Sunrise Movement LA and the Youth Climate Strike LA in the Frogtown neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was there running an information table for No Canyon Hills.

The Click: Can you start by telling a little about yourself?

Kemp: I am a writer, artist, and a teacher. A big part of my teaching is about sustainable practices and how we can use art, design, language, communication to create the kind of world that we want to inhabit and to be responsible stewards of the world. 

Given your background in art and writing, how did you get involved in environmental activism? 

I work in an institution, and I’m constantly around young people… oftentimes what comes up is, like, climate anxiety, environmental anxiety, extinction anxiety, like these huge issues. I’m deeply invested in thinking about how to change structures and systems and how to leverage art, design, and visual communication to create platforms where people can like, build momentum to do that in different spaces.

Could you just give me an overview of the Canyon Hills development and what No Canyon Hills is trying to do? 

Kemp: Yes, so- 

A group approaches the No Canyon Hills table. 

Hi there! This is No Canyon Hills. Um, we’re trying to conserve 300 acres of open space in the Verdugo Mountains. It’s a critical wildlife crossing area for mountain lions and black bears and many other mammals and is about to be destroyed for a luxury gated community.

No Canyon Hills flier. Image of mountain lion.

No Canyon Hills flier designed by Emma Kemp. [Credit: Kate Mays]

Wow, that pretty much answered my question. How did No Canyon Hills start?

We [Kemp and co-founder Altman] learned about this development. And we went to a meeting on Zoom in January, and it was a community meeting by the Land Use Committee of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighbourhood Council. It was a very small meeting. We realized that no one really knew about this project. It seemed like no one outside of the immediate couple of people on that council had any awareness. So there just wasn’t any contemporary visibility for us.

What is No Canyon Hill’s approach to stopping the development?

So we have two active campaign strategies. One is that we’re working with an [environmental] attorney. He’s helping us really target L. A. Department of City Planning, L.A. City Council, like really trying to slow down the approval of the [development’s] grading permit.

We are also working in partnership with the Trust for Public Land… to try to dialogue directly with the developer and essentially try to buy the land off of him. And then have it conserved in perpetuity between the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Tongva and Tataviam land conservancies. 

How can people get involved? 

We’re always encouraging people to sign the petition. But actually, what’s more impactful in 2023 is if you are into poetry, if you are into music, if you are into art, if you’re a lawyer, if you run a bakery, whatever it is, is to find a way to share information about this with your community. 

For more information on No Canyon Hills, visit www.nocanyonhills.org

 

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