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Land deal protects critical San Diego habitat

Updated: January 26, 2024 at 4:27 PM PST
Update: The land sale has been recorded with the County of San Diego making the transfer official.

San Diego environmentalists are cheering a land purchase that’ll protect undeveloped land in the Proctor Valley near Chula Vista.

The nearly 1,300 acres of coastal sage scrub habitat will be permanently preserved as part of the deal.

The sale has been signed, but it needs to be recorded before the land transfer is finalized. That should happen Friday.


Conservationists will pay $60 million to buy a tract of land that was once expected to become another sprawling development expanding the footprint of Chula Vista.

The California Wildlife Conservation Board is contributing $30 million, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is adding $25 million, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy are each kicking in $2.5 million.

“This is a landscape that looks the way Southern California used to look before all of the development that’s happened over the last century or so,” said David Hogan of the Sierra Club. “And we’re talking a landscape of beautiful native grasslands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and beautiful Proctor Valley Creek.”

The parcel is now part of the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, and it will protect endangered species like the San Diego fairy shrimp, Quino checkerspot butterfly and the California gnatcatcher.

It is considered a core biological area in San Diego County’s Multiple Species Conservation Program.


“This will be as good a place as we have in San Diego where people can come and experience the coastal sage scrub ecosystem which is 90% gone,” said Dan Silver, of the Endangered Habitats League.

The owner of the parcel had county approval to build more than 1,100 homes in the undeveloped valley. But the Sierra Club and others fought the plan in court, noting that the tract served as critical habitat for endangered species and a development there would put residents at risk from wildfires.

The court agreed and that cleared the way for talks about selling the land to conservation groups.

“If you have Proctor Valley developed, the scenic value, that sense of place, would’ve been lost,” Silver said.

Ironically, the land deal came together in part because of environmental devastation created by the Trump Administration’s border wall project. The federal government agreed, as part of a legal settlement with California and 17 other states, to spend $25 million dollars to buy the San Diego parcel as mitigation for habitat destruction along the border wall.

“Anyone that’s following news on the environment knows that nature is taking a huge beating across the world,” said David Hogan, an officer in the local Sierra Club. “So, it’s really wonderful to be able to share some great news for a change, that a place of such global significance will be protected forever.”

The Nature Conservancy called the agreement a testament to the power of partnership and commitment.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of this transaction,” said Scott Morrison, director of conservation and science for The Nature Conservancy in California. “Protecting this property fortifies the very cornerstone of southern California’s regional conservation planning efforts.”

The protected land will help secure other conservation investments made in the region over the decades.

“It’s an achievement of the whole of San Diego’s incredible conservation community,” Morrison said.