240 Acres Preserved In Escondido Creek Watershed

December 21, 2012

Cielo del Norte, Escondido California

 Scrub habitat in Escondido / Photo by The Conservation Fund

Private-Public Partnership Preserves Critical Habitat in North County for Species at Risk and Water Quality

Escondido, Calif. — Today The Escondido Creek Conservancy (TECC) and The Conservation Fund announced the purchase and protection of 240 acres within one of the last undeveloped natural habitat areas in northern San Diego County. This acquisition, the first of a two-phase project, enhances and builds upon the ongoing conservation efforts within the Escondido Creek watershed preserve, a 75-square mile area of high quality riparian and coastal sage scrub habitat that supports regional water quality and ideal environments for species at risk.

Located near several other wilderness preserves—including the 774-acre Del Dios Highlands County Preserve, the 784-acre Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve and other conserved lands owned by TECC—the property, which was once slated for development, will provide significant connectivity for vital wildlife corridors. Known as the Cielo Del Norte tract, the protected land and an additional 240 acres that the Fund and TECC hope to protect in 2013 lie within the North County Multiple Habitat Conservation Plan (MHCP) area. The goal of the MHCP is to conserve 19,000 acres of habitat for more than 80 rare, threatened or endangered species. The Cielo Del Norte properties provide habitat for several pairs of federally-threatened coastal California gnatcatcher and several other species of state and federal concern.

The Conservation Fund and TECC purchased the first 240 acres for $11.5 million with a grant from the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) and two U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Section 6 grants, allocated by the California Department of Fish & Game and distributed by the WCB. Also known as Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund Grants, Section 6 grants are funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and support conservation activities benefitting threatened and endangered species on non-federal lands. This federal funding was made possible with support from U.S Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. TECC now holds title of the tract.

“The Cielo Del Norte acquisition is an excellent example of cooperative partnerships working together to implement strategic habitat conservation on a landscape level. This approach to regional habitat conservation planning has enabled the conservation of numerous species and unique habitats found in this region of San Diego.” said Jim Bartel, field supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad Office.

“TECC has been acquiring land parcel by parcel over the last two decades, working with great partners like The Conservation Fund and federal, state and county agencies, to piece together what has become in effect a regional park,” said Chair of the TECC Land Acquisition Committee, Steve Barker. “The downturn in the economy over the last few years has created a unique opportunity to purchase properties for conservation that would otherwise have been developed. That’s why we are thrilled that this deal came together.”

Barker added: “The acquisition of this property has been a priority for TECC not only because of the great wildlife habitat, but also because it helps to complete connections to adjacent conservation successes. It had become an inholding within otherwise preserved open space. Our work continues to complete other key connections including the second phase of Cielo Del Norte and University Heights in order to ensure the long term viability of this ecosystem.”

Escondido river area

Photo by The Conservation Fund

“This project not only enhances the collective conservation work being done by the County of San Diego, TECC, the nearby water districts and cities, and many other groups, but it also demonstrates how private-public partnerships can really weave together a network of protected lands in Southern California,” said Georgina Moreno, economist and Conservation Fund board member.

“This property offers some of the finest coastal sage and riparian habitat remaining in Sothern California, and particularly rare in Nothern San Diego County,” added Conservation Fund Southern California director, Scott Ferguson. “We are dedicated to furthering the efforts to protect it. Without the support and confidence of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Conservation Board, we couldn’t have accomplished this first phase, and so we are very grateful.”

“All parties in the transaction are to be commended for their diligence and persistence to see this project through to completion,” said John P. Donnelly, the Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “This is a great example of a successful public-private partnership to further conservation goals and achieve perpetual protection of sensitive wildlife species.”

This complex, four-year conservation effort is The Conservation Fund’s fourth project within the Escondido Creek watershed and wilderness preserve. The Fund has helped public agencies and local and private organizations protect nearly 750 acres in this critically sensitive area. Over the past three decades, the Fund has conserved more than 258,000 acres of high priority conservation lands in Southern California, including more than 7,000 acres in San Diego County.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

About The Escondido Creek Conservancy
TECC is a local land conservancy which is dedicated to the preservation, enhancement and protection of the natural open space within the Escondido Creek Watershed. Since 1991 TECC has preserved hundreds of acres of open space through direct purchase or by working in partnership with its members, donors, landowners, government agencies and community groups. www.escondidocreek.org.

Press Release Contacts

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org

Ann Hough, The Escondido Creek Conservancy, (760) 471-9354, information@escondidocreek.org
Scott Ferguson, The Conservation Fund - San Diego office, (949) 494-8034 or (949) 500-0225

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