The North County Multiple Species Conservation Program (NC-MSCP) is making good progress.
New leadership at Dept. of Planning and Land Use, and continued leadership at the Dept of Parks and Recreation, have led to progress on this long-delayed, complimentary effort to the South County MSCP, which was adopted back in 1996. EHL serves on its Advisory Committee. With the help of expert biologists, we submitted an analysis supporting expansion of the list of species upon which the plan is based, or "covers." In order to better account for ecosystem health, several species were indeed added, for example, for stream habitat (arroyo chub), grasslands (grasshopper sparrow, San Diego back-tailed jackrabbit), and wildlife movement (southern mule deer).
A huge boost came at the end of 2022 with the acquisition by the Golden Door spa of the 2,000-acre former Newland-Pacific property on Merriam Mountain. EHL had helped fight this project for many years, including via legal action. We expect this intact block of shrubland to eventually make a major contribution to the future reserve.
EHL continues to oppose the proposed Harvest Hills project in steep fire-prone hillsides near Escondido. We commissioned expert fire evacuation studies which reinforced the City’s own studies showing evacuation failure. This information was supplied to the City and to the governmental body being asked to annex the land into city jurisdiction.
We submitted comments on the City of Santee’s component of the MSCP, which is fatally flawed by the design of Fanita Ranch. We expect the next round of legal action against that project to commence this year.
EHL and its sister land trust, Endangered Habitats Conservancy, are working on several acquisitions for the South County MSCP, including hundreds of acres of habitat that could help the endangered Hermes copper butterfly. This butterfly was federally listed in 2021 and has very limited distribution. It is threated by human-caused fires and depends on a single host plant, the spiny redberry.
EHL continues to engage on the County’s Climate Action Plan, where we seek a “smart growth” alternative. Other efforts we track and participate in are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring mitigation for vehicles miles traveled, and to increase affordable housing in in-fill locations.