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Preserving Critical Habitat in San Diego County

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Aired 4/20/09

San Diego County and two other organizations have purchased 234 acres of land in the north county. The land purchase keeps the property from being developed and provides a home for endangered wildlife.

The $11 million purchase of Sage Hill preserves the land north of Elfin Forest Road, tucked in the rolling hills south of San Marcos.

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Above: The $11 million purchase of Sage Hill preserves the land north of Elfin Forest Road, tucked in the rolling hills south of San Marcos. The land was bought by the county, along with the San Diego Association of Governments and The Conservation Fund.

The land was bought by the county, along with the San Diego Association of Governments and The Conservation Fund.

SANDAG Environmental Planner Keith Greer says before the purchase, the property was going to be used for a home development.

Greer: SANDAG was fortunate enough to be able to work with our partners in the County of San Diego and The Conservation Fund to acquire this critical piece of property.

He says the land supports a live oak forest and a fresh water marsh.

Megan Hamilton is with the County Parks Department.

She says the property will be managed as permanent open space.

Hamilton: It's also been identified as very important to the proposed North County Multiple Species Conservation Program. So this land actually provides a linkage within the Escondido Creek Watershed that allows for wildlife movement between areas that are already set aside as open space.

The Conservation Fund helped put the deal together.

The Fund's Scott Ferguson says the down economy helped create the buying opportunity.

Ferguson: Probably in a different economic climate it would have been very likely developed. It had been planned for development. And just partly a combination of luck and serendipitous arrangements, I guess we ended up being able to preserve it.

The 234 acres includes coastal sage scrub. That habitat is critical to ensure the survival of the California gnatcatcher and other sensitive native species.

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