Culminating 10 years of work and consensus building, SANDAG unanimously approved a comprehensive program on March 28 to preserve nearly 20,000 acres of undeveloped land in north San Diego County.
The program, formally known as the Multiple Habitat Conservation Program, encompasses the seven North County Cities of Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, and Solana Beach. The designated habitat weaves together contiguous parcels of land to offer wildlife open space corridors to protect 51 species of endangered or threatened plants and animals.
With SANDAG's approval of the program, each of the seven North County cities will use it as a framework to create specific conservation plans within their own city limits. When these plans are put together and receive approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game, the North County cities can grant permits so developers can build on approximately 10,000 unprotected acres.
"This is definitely the process to protect valuable habitat," said Gary Gallegos, SANDAG Executive Director. He added, "At the same time the program allows home builders and developers a more cost-effective way to meet demand for residential and business properties without having to deal with the 'species of the month club.'"
SANDAG officials estimate the cost to preserve the 20,000 acres will be $190 million over the next three decades. Endowments account for $63 million of the total cost; another $71 million is for property purchases; management of the combined preserve is put at $52 million, and $4 million is dedicated to land restoration. SANDAG is working on a variety of investment strategies to help fund the program.
The new North County habitat program will be closely coordinated with the existing 170,000-acre San Diego metropolitan habitat program where 85 sensitive plants and animals are being protected. The remaining unincorporated areas of North and East County cover more than one million acres of land. The County government has mapped the vegetation in the area and will create a wildlife corridor system that will merge with the two other habitat programs. This work is expected to be completed in 2004.
Project Manager: Janet Fairbanks