<h1>Regional Habitat Conservation</h1> <h1>Regional Habitat Conservation</h1>

Regional Habitat Conservation

At SANDAG, we’re committed to protecting our environment. A significant part of our region’s quality of life depends on our environmental health. We believe that protecting our natural resources and reducing urban sprawl are important for today and future generations.

Current regional habitat conservation projects include Natural Community Conservation Planning Program; North County Multiple Habitat Conservation Program; Regional Open Space Strategy; and Sensitive Lands Analysis.

Habitat Conservation Taskforce

Through our Reginal Habitat Conservation Taskforce, SANDAG works closely with representatives from the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, the four SANDAG sub-regions, state and federal wildlife agencies, and several organizations on regional habitat conservation issues, including input on issues related to the implementation of the TransNet Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP). The EMP consists of direct mitigation of planned transportation projects and the regional habitat acquisition, management, and monitoring activities necessary to implement the Multiple Species Conservation Program and the Multiple Habitat Conservation Program.

For more information on the taskforce, please contact Keith Greer, SANDAG Principal Regional Planner, at 619.699.7390 or keith.greer@sandag.org; or Kim Smith, SANDAG Senior Regional Planner, 619.699.6949 or kim.smith@sandag.org.

Regional Habitat Conservation Taskforce Meeting Recording - December 13, 2022

Current Habitat Preservation Projects

The Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) program pilot effort focuses on the coastal sage scrub habitat of the coastal California gnatcatcher in Southern California. The NCCP hopes to avoid future conflicts over development by conserving identified lands as protected habitats and allowing development to occur in neighboring areas.

The State of California signed an NCCP agreement with SANDAG, the City of San Diego, and the County of San Diego. Through this agreement, the State recognizes the programs sponsored by these agencies as ongoing multi-species plans under the Natural Community Conservation Planning guidelines.

Among the efforts to preserve open space in the region are three multiple habitat/species planning efforts:

  • In southern San Diego County, the Multiple Species Conservation Program targets more than 170,000 acres for conservation, where 85 sensitive plants and animals will be protected.
  • In northern San Diego County, the seven incorporated cities working through SANDAG make up the Multiple Habitat Conservation Program. More than 75 species are being evaluated for adequacy of conservation under the proposed 19,000-acre preserve system.
  • The County of San Diego is working to preserve more than one million acres of land in the remaining unincorporated areas of North and East Counties.
  • Preserving our region’s natural resources extends beyond habitat conservation. SANDAG has defined regionally significant open space to include open water or land areas that should remain natural or lands that should be retained in a relatively undeveloped, rural condition.

The Multiple Habitat Conservation Program (MHCP) is a comprehensive conservation planning process that addresses the needs of multiple plant and animal species in Northwestern San Diego County.

The MHCP encompasses the cities of Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, Solana Beach, and Vista. Its goal is to conserve approximately 19,000 acres of habitat, of which roughly 8,800 acres (46 percent) are already in public ownership and contribute toward the habitat preserve system for the protection of more than 80 rare, threatened, or endangered species.

The MHCP Subregional Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) were adopted and certified by the SANDAG Board of Directors on March 28, 2003. Each MCHP-encompassing cities must adopt subarea plans and implement agreements with the California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before incidental take permits can be issued. The City of Solana Beach does not need to prepare a subarea plan.

Coordinated through SANDAG, the MHCP is one of three subregional habitat conservation planning programs in the region that will contribute to a coordinated preserve system for the San Diego region and Southern California. With the preserve area defined in advance of development, builders will know where new homes, employment, and commercial centers can be placed.

When completed, the habitat preservation areas will serve as a key component of the region’s smart growth efforts by preserving habitat and open space and by directing forecasted growth into appropriate areas.

MHCP Documents

The MHCP documents are available below in PDF format. Please note that some of these files are very large in size and may take a significant amount of time to download. If you require additional assistance, please contact pio@sandag.org or 619.699.1950.

The main objective of regional open space planning is to build consensus and resolve conflicts between transportation and other public facilities' open space. Regionally significant open space includes natural resource areas, region-defining open space, region-serving open space, and rural lands.

Natural resource areas are the highest ranking in environmental quality and overall value to the region. These areas include steep slopes, floodplains, wetlands, and habitat of native plants and animals. All jurisdictions in the region have policies for preserving these natural resources in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. The goal is to assure that adequate quantities of diverse habitat types are maintained and that the plants and animals found in these habitats are less likely to become endangered.

Region-defining open spaces are major undeveloped areas along the border of San Diego County that define and separate it from other regions. The first impression upon entering the San Diego Region should be the feeling of openness and a break in continuous urbanization.

Region-serving open spaces are areas lightly developed with activities or facilities that serve the region as unique or outstanding recreational, safety or managed production (agriculture, mineral extraction). These areas should be retained as open space and, in some cases, increased to serve the region’s expanding needs. Additionally, corridors of open space within and between communities should be retained in order to provide identity and a sense of community, and to link significant open space areas.

Rural lands are areas outside the identified urban area that should be planned to remain in a low intensity, rural land use pattern. These areas provide a contrast to complete urbanization and result in the visual appearance and feeling of more openness in the region.

The Regional Open Space Plan has identified steep slopes, floodplains, wetlands, riparian areas, and regional open space parks and preserves as valuable resources in the San Diego region. Strategies and policies are being developed for the long-term protection of these lands. Additionally, multiple species/habitat preserves are being identified and mapped through the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) and Multiple Habitat Conservation Program (MHCP), and procedures are being developed to monitor habitat quality and ecosystem health inside these habitat preserves to ensure the long-term viability of species and their habitats.

Innovative Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies support the close connection between transportation planning and environmental protection. Areas containing sensitive species and habitats are analyzed during the development of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) to identify potential impacts on these areas from future transportation projects. Early identification of the location of these impacts is important to developing cost-effective and timely mitigation strategies.

SANDAG, at the request of the wildlife agencies and the local agencies in the region, has created a GIS-based habitat-tracking tool (HabiTrak). The City and County of San Diego use HabiTrak to prepare their habitat tracking reports. In conjunction with wildlife agencies, procedures for aggregating the HabiTrak data and preparing summary subregional reports have been established.