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Veteran Non-Profit Executive Tapped as Friends of Ballona Wetlands New Executive Director

Scott Culbertson has been named the Executive Director of Friends of Ballona Wetlands, bringing more than 30 years of development, team building and management experience to an organization fighting to preserve, protect and restore one of California’s remaining coastal wetlands. Culbertson’s agency experience coupled with a successful marketing and finance career, and longtime passion for the environment will further propel the organization as the primary voice of the Ballona Wetlands.

“Scott brings strong leadership skills from his previous experience with non-profits, and we look forward to his passion and vision to help us achieve our mission of stewardship of, advocacy for, and education about the Ballona Wetlands,” stated Ballona Friends Board President, and Professor at Loyola Marymount University Professor Jim Landry. “We are very excited to welcome Scott as our new Executive Director of Friends of Ballona Wetlands.”

Nearly 40 years ago, under the watchful eye and energetic commitment of its Founder and Board Member Ruth Lansford, Friends of Ballona Wetlands was born out of the passion of a handful of Playa del Rey residents to champion restoration and protection of the Ballona Wetlands thru education, advocacy, and stewardship.

“I’m delighted Scott has come on board to lead our cause on a new and exciting path,” stated Lansford. “He has already hit the ground running and his extensive non-profit background is serving him well, continuing and expanding the Ballona Friends’ position as the primary protector and restoration advocate for the Ballona Wetlands.”

Culbertson is a self-proclaimed “intrepreneur” and fixer, and does not shy away from taking the lead to turn ideas into effective and profitable finished products. His experience ranges from working with brand marketing to entertainment to finance with such companies as Unilever, RPMC, Activision, and Mediacentrix.

But it was his passion for children and education, as well as the environment and science and technology that led him into working with nonprofits. It was at the Los Angeles inner-city agency A Place Called Home where, for more than 10 years, Culbertson was dedicated to supporting and helping provide opportunities for youth living and growing up in one of the most challenging zip codes in Los Angeles. As the Associate Director of A Place Called Home, Culbertson was accountable for fundraising, special events, marketing and communications, board development, and collaborations. He was also a member of the executive management team dealing with all agency matters.

“I am honored to serve this remarkable organization that changed the fate of an environmental gem,” said Culbertson of his new position. “Today more than ever, the Ballona Wetlands, like so many other important ecological sites, faces many challenges and an uncertain future. I strongly believe we have an obligation to continue the important work that was started 39 years ago at Friends of Ballona Wetlands. And, with a dedicated and knowledgeable staff, an engaged and supportive board, steadfast partners, and the community’s support, I look forward to helping sustain this urban oasis.”

Founded in 1978, the non-profit Friends of Ballona Wetlands’ mission is to champion the restoration and protection of the Wetlands, involving and educating the public as advocates and stewards. Each year, the Friends hosts more than 9,000 participants – community members of all ages and student groups (pre-K to post-grad) for interpretive wetlands educational tours, volunteer projects and hands-on restoration.


Wetlands Restoration Coalition Launches New Website


In a unique collaborative effort, Friends of Ballona Wetlands, Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, and Los Angeles Waterkeeper developed a comprehensive, scientific set of principles for wetland restoration projects in Southern California and beyond. Nine other organizations signed on in support of those guidelines. Since then, we have shared our principles with the California Coastal Commission, the California Fish and Game Commission, and elected officials, as well as to the public at our Meet the Wetlands event in July of 2016.

The coalition along with other local wetland experts created a website ( to showcase the Principles of Wetland Restoration. Now you can be a partner too! Please sign on as an individual or organization. Click here to complete the form.


The website is a tool to advocate for the restoration of Southern California’s remaining wetlands. It describes the principles and cites examples of each principle in practice. Additionally, the website has a list of restoration projects that have implemented a majority of the principles we believe are necessary for a successful and comprehensive project.

Looking forward, the coalition eagerly awaits the release of the Ballona Wetlands restoration plans (draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report). This website will be used to educate elected officials and the public about the need for scientific and comprehensive wetland restoration projects that bring back functioning ecosystems. We look forward to seeing the principles in action at Ballona!


Friends’ Moonlight Event a Success!

Friends of Ballona Wetlands held their 11th annual Moonlight on the Marsh celebration to a sold-out crowd on Saturday, October 1st. At the dinner, held at Loyola Marymount University, the Friends honored Dr. Shelley Luce, Executive Director of Environment Now; and Susan Zolla, local businesswoman, philanthropist and owner of the Inn at Playa del Rey.

Dr. Luce was Executive Director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and The Bay Foundation at a time when the battle for the Ballona Wetlands was fierce. She presided over often unruly meetings with grace and courage. In addressing the critical need to restore the Ballona Wetlands, Dr Luce noted in her acceptance remarks, “I feel we are sisters and brothers here, in the long fight to right the wrongs that have been done to the wetlands, and to our world… The Friends of Ballona Wetlands have set an example of stewardship for all of us.”

Susan Zolla’s Inn at Playa del Rey overlooks the Ballona Wetlands. She is a generous supporter and has made the Ballona Wetlands a prime feature of the Inn, introducing visitors from all over the world to the wonder of wetlands, as well as to the Friends.

“We are very grateful to Susan and her staff at the Inn who promote the beauty of the wetlands by encouraging their guests to enjoy viewing the open space of the last wetland in Los Angeles County right outside their window – a real treat!“ said Lisa Fimiani, Executive Director of the Friends.

Saturday’s program featured Lucas, age 11, and Theo, age 10, who participated this past summer in Ballona Discovery Nature Camp under the guidance of Friends’ Manager of Environmental Education, Day Scott, describing their experiences in the Wetlands in breathless detail, to the delight of the audience.

In addition to the children, the audience was treated to a visit by Eddie, the Great Horned Owl, who was right at home on the stage, accompanied by his handler, Melissa Loebl, from South Bay Wildlife Rehab, a non-profit devoted to rescuing and rehabilitating wounded wildlife.

The Friends’ mission is to champion the restoration and protection of the Ballona Wetlands, involving and educating the public as advocates and stewards. They restored the dunes at Ballona with the help of over 90,000 volunteers, leading to the return of the endangered El Segundo Blue butterfly, participated in the creation of the freshwater marsh (mandated by their settlement agreement with the landowner), and initiated the change of tide gates to allow much-needed saltwater back into the wetlands where pickleweed provides nesting habitat for another endangered species, the Belding’s Savannah Sparrow. The Friends’ hold regular tours, habitat restoration and cleanup activities as well as educational programs at Ballona, allowing over 9,000 visitors a year to “Explore Ballona!”

For further information on the Wetlands go to, or to find out how you can participate please contact the Friends at (310) 306-5994,

Click here to see all the photos on our Flickr page.

And check out these great tribute videos by Matt Lansford:


Feeling Lucky? Moonlight on the Marsh Is A Safe Bet!

Moonlight on the Marsh is back and better than ever! Click here to buy your tickets, and see below for all the details. See you there!

Moonlight (3)

MOM 2016 Digital Invite Final - Crop

Wine Tree Raffle graphic

Raffle title more

Opportunity Drawing Pail Inventory Final (1)


Join Us! Coastal Cleanup Day 2016 at the Ballona Wetlands

Join us on Saturday, September 17th from 9:00am to 12:00pm for our annual Coastal Cleanup Day volunteer event! All are welcome, but groups should register by sending an email to with your primary contact and estimated number of participants. We will be removing trash and debris from Ballona Creek, as well as removing non-native invasive plants from the dunes.

Click here to download the CCD flyer.

To download map & directions click here. Please note: participants will need to sign both our waiver form as well as the CCD form, minors require a parent/guardian signature.

Have a safe and happy Coastal Cleanup Day!