Local environmentalists honored the contributions of state elected officials and journalists in the acquisition of over 600 acres of the Ballona Wetlands during “Celebrate Ballona!” at The Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey December 2nd.

The Ballona Institute, a Playa del Rey-based organization which works to inform the community about the importance of the Ballona Wetlands ecosystem, marked the fifth anniversary of the wetlands preservation under state ownership by recognizing the efforts of elected officials and journalists.

Among the those honored were Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, former California State Controller Kathleen Connell, former California State Controller Steve Westly and former California State Senator Tom Hayden. Journalists who were honored for their coverage of the preservation included Robert Scheer, Patt Morrison, J. William Gibson, David Helvarg, Nick Madigan, Mary Moore, Jill Stewart and Jeff Stockwell.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who is chair of the Honorary Host Committee for Celebrate Ballona!, presided over the fundraising event, which was attended by over 300 guests.

Proceeds from the dinner and silent auction will go towards defraying legal costs incurred during the campaign for the public acquisition of the Ballona Wetlands, as well as for ongoing stewardship, educational, and advocacy programs specifically related to protecting and preserving the reserve.

“The efforts of our valiant team of local community members could not have been successful without the support and commitment of the public officials honored,” said Marcia Hanscom, co-director of the Ballona Institute. “Several courageous journalists also followed our story, raising public awareness of the importance of preserving and protecting this invaluable land.”

After more than 25 years of citizen efforts, more than 600 acres of the Ballona Wetlands were saved when the state of California acquired the land in 2003 through a partnership with Trust for Public Land.

The public ownership has helped insure ecological integrity, citizen oversight and the potential for future acquisitions of surrounding parklands, according to the Ballona Institute.

The dinner was the first of several community-wide events planned to celebrate the acquisition of the land.

Information on Ballona Institute, www.ballonainstitute.org/.