Local Refuge Among California's Natural Treasures
San Diego National Wildlife Refuge On List
The Nature Conservancy ranked the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge one of its top-10 natural treasures in California.
The rankings come as Congress considers funding cuts for parks.
The refuge is a series of habitats in rural San Diego County that serve as a way-station for migratory birds during the spring and fall.
Dan Roth with the Nature Conservancy said the group is especially worried about the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which could lose about 90 percent of its funding.
"California has benefited from this program that hasn't cost taxpayers anything," Roth said. "And has really made California one of the most iconic places that it is today."
He said many of the areas set aside from development in the state exist in part because of the federal program which is funded by oil and gas revenue.
Roth said the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and other areas could face development pressures without the federal funds.
"California has benefited and if these programs are cut, places that are in line to be permanently protected would no longer be protected," said Roth. "And we would lose out as a state and as a country on protecting some of our most vital resources."
Roth said the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge plays a key role for migratory birds.
"These birds rely on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge to migrate north to south and then south to north," Roth said. "And it has allowed for these birds to continue to have a place where they can nest, they can breed and then continue on their flyways."
But Roth said the federal budget situation could eliminate money used to protect and set aside precious areas.
"Congress and the President are going to need to decide the level of funding," Roth said. "And if they go with the House's version of the budget then we'll see that these crucial conservation projects will simply be cut and we'll lose out on these opportunities in the future."
The "Top Ten California Treasures" from the Nature Conservancy, in order of ranking:
-- Angeles National Forest, offering skiing, fishing and hiking;
-- Channel Islands National Park. The five islands -- Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara -- are home to plants and animals found nowhere else on earth;
-- Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including Muir Woods National Monument, Alcatraz Island and the Presidio of San Francisco;
-- Mojave National Preserve, 1.6 million acres and home to otherworldly plants and animals such as the Joshua tree and the desert tortoise;
-- Point Reyes National Seashore, including its dramatic headlands, beaches and forested ridges;
-- The Redwood National and State Parks, including 300-foot-plus trees creating natural cathedral;
-- San Bernardino National Forest, home to the Big Bear resorts and 11,499-foot Mount San Gorgonio;
-- San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for migratory birds;
-- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the coastal range offers a getaway for city dwellers, stretching from Hollywood into Ventura County; and
-- Sequoia National Forest, home to Giant Sequoias that grow to more than 100 feet in circumference and 14,505-foot Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States.