The Friends of Ballona Wetlands environmental group has received a $50,000 Environmental Champions Award from the Sempra Energy Foundation which members say will help the group continue its stewardship

and protection of the environmentally sensitive Ballona Wetlands.

The award was one of 30 Sempra grants totaling $1 million that have been given to Southern California non-profits focused on natural resource protection and conservation, environmental education, and environmental health and safety. The Friends of Ballona join such Los Angeles-area recipients as TreePeople

and The Audubon Center at Debs Park as grant winners.

“We are grateful for Sempra Energy Foundation’s support of our educational efforts to help each of the 1.6 million residents of our 128-acre Ballona watershed become active stewards of our local environment,” said Richard Beban, co-executive director of the group. “We are pleased to be working with the foundation in our local community to produce sustainable and responsible environmental change.”

The grant will be used to support the hands-on educational activities and other services offered by the environmental group to visitors at the Ballona Wetlands ecological reserve and in various community settings, members said.

“When I look at the prior accomplishments of this hard-working, mostly volunteer, grassroots environmental organization, I am genuinely impressed by their accomplishments during times of recession and their continued commitment to provide educational programs and events focused on environmental stewardship,” said Frank Urtasun, executive director of the Sempra Energy Foundation.

“We look forward to supporting the Friends of Ballona Wetlands and helping them expand their mission to make positive impacts on our local quality of life and environment through daily choices.”

Friends of Ballona Wetlands was formed in 1978 to protect and defend the wetlands, which they say are part of the Pacific Flyway and provide crucial habitat for hundreds of species of birds and

other wildlife. The group works in partnership with the California

Coastal Conservancy, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which have authority over the state-owned reserve.