Habitat fragmentation, natural disasters, and human development continue to degrade local habitat in San Diego. While these problems can feel overwhelming, there are many actions we can take to positively impact our remaining habitat. Here are just a few ways we can preserve our natural resources, and in turn, our communities’ way of life.
Support local conservation areas and agencies
San Diego is home to some of the country’s most beautiful wildlife refuges and parks. In fact, San Diego supports over 200 threatened plants and animal species — more than any other county in the country! These include treasures such as the California songbirds, California gnatcatcher, arroyo southwestern toad, and San Diego fairy shrimp.
If you haven’t explored the wild side of San Diego, you’re overdue! We’re more likely to speak up for our natural resources when we rediscover our personal connection to it.
So where do we start? Here are a few places to explore.
San Diego National Wildlife Refuge
You can check out the enormous San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, which spans over 12,000 acres. You’ll find the rare coastal sage scrub, tons of vernal pools, forests, grasslands, and more. This refuge is the jewel of the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), and it’s not hard to see why.
You can also tread into the stunning backcountry by exploring the public parks. The list is extensive, ranging from the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and Volcan Mountain.
These natural parks are often created (and defended) by passionate conservation organizations. Despite the importance of the cause, the parks’ budgets are notoriously stretched thin, so your support can make a huge difference. For example, the Nature Conservancy works with public agencies and private benefactors to purchase land for parks and appeal to lawmakers regarding development and conservation funding. Some other great options include the California State parks, the California Coastal Conservancy, the Conservation Biology Institute, and the Fallbrook Land Conservancy.
Stay fire-safe year-round
Wildfires are a natural part of a healthy ecosystem in our region, but the surge of man-made fires has taken this “reset” to an extreme. Man-made fires can destroy entire communities, ravage local food sources, and leave wildlife populations stranded and vulnerable.
You can protect habitat in San Diego from wildfire by staying fire-safe year round. Follow your local mandates, practice safe camping protocols, and leave pyrotechnics to the professionals.
And, if anyone in your party ever ignores fire-safe protocols, call them out on it. We need to come together to keep our communities — and our local habitats — safe from reckless behavior.
Demand environmentally-safe development
Development can be a positive force , when done right, it can transform our communities from the ground up. Encourage alternatives to land development by supporting (or even proposing!) eco-friendly measures in your community, whether that be solar panels, rain gardens, green stormwater management, or otherwise. Revitalized urban areas can breathe life into our cities and decrease demand for sprawl development that fragments our greenbelts.
Preserve habitat corridors
Sprawl development directly threatens key natural features like our habitat corridors. These stretches of habitat allow safe passage for wildlife to reach food sources and breeding grounds. When these corridors are cut off, not only does this result in devastating habitat fragmentation, it can also lead to an increase in wildlife interactions in urban areas (like traffic collisions and feeding on trash or poison baits). Lost animals aren’t just confused; they can be dangerous.
Thankfully, we’re learning more and more about these corridors in recent years to understand where they are, what they look like, and how we can preserve them (or in some cases, offer creative alternatives). The Nature Conservancy is one organization in particular that advocates to preserve crucial migration corridors, such as the mountain lion range between Mexico and California.
Protecting Our Own
Our communities continue to work hard to protect habitat in San Diego County, and we’ve made great strides in recent years. However, the problem continues to be pressing, and the impacts of climate change build with each passing day.
We need you. Join your local conservation effort today, and let your voice be heard.
Featured image: Bob Wick, BLM