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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

CARLSBAD FWO: Wetlands Restoration Project Fosters Global Environmental Stewardship with San Diego Students

Region 8, June 29, 2012
Students planting native plants at San Dieguito Lagoon
Students planting native plants at San Dieguito Lagoon - Photo Credit: n/a
Two students enjoying nature at San Dieguito Lagoon
Two students enjoying nature at San Dieguito Lagoon - Photo Credit: n/a
Students measuring growth of plant at South San Diego Bay NWR
Students measuring growth of plant at South San Diego Bay NWR - Photo Credit: n/a

By Stephanie Weagley, Public Affairs

One hundred fifty underserved students from two San Diego County schools were able to learn about their natural world by participating in wetland habitat restoration projects located at the San Dieguito Lagoon and South San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) throughout the 2011-2012 school year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Coastal Program was instrumental in planning the project and providing financial and technical assistance to the Ocean Connectors, a subsidiary of the Ocean Foundation. They partnered with Ocean Connectors to develop a project that merged classroom presentations with on-the-ground habitat conservation activities.

Sixth and seventh graders from Kimball School in National City and Cesar Chavez Middle School in Oceanside learned how to protect watersheds and improve their natural environments through a combination of actions: removing litter and invasive plants; installing native vegetation; utilizing scientific equipment (microscopes, binoculars, plant and animal field guides, measuring sticks); playing bird bingo; and writing pen-pal letters with their peers living in Baja California Sur, Mexico, suggesting ways to protect shared natural resources.

It was through these actions that the students learned about the endangered plants and wildlife living in and around these coastal wetland habitats, such as migratory birds and marine life. Additionally, they learned that planting native plants can benefit the hydrology of soils, reduce runoff and erosion, and filter pollution naturally, ultimately creating a healthier ecoysytem for both humans and wildlife.

At each habitat site, one acre was restored or enhanced by the students. For the San Dieguito Lagoon, saltwater marsh was restored with approximately 140 plants consisting of alkali heath and San Diego marsh-elder alongside the Coast to Crest public trail. Here the habitat meets local business developments along the Interstate 5 Freeway in Del Mar, California. For the refuge, students expanded on past restoration efforts of the Service and helped enhance coastal sage scrub habitat consisting of 75 plants of California sunflower and California buckwheat. The restoration project was located at the end of 13th Street in Imperial Beach, California, adjacent to the Bayshore Bikeway and Otay River.

“We identified locations for on-the-ground activities and put Ocean Connectors in touch with the receptive landowners and parties that could provide matching funds to leverage the Coastal Program's investment.” said Carolyn Lieberman, Coastal Program Coordinator for the Service’s Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office.

This unique outreach project represented a collaboration between the Service’s Coastal Program, Ocean Connectors, San Diego Gas & Electric, and park rangers from the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority. The Service and SDG&E funded the program through a combined grant in 2011, with assistance provided by San Dieguito River Park rangers and south San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

For more information about Carlsbad’s Coastal Program please visit: www.fws.gov/carlsbad/ConsvPartners.html#cp

To learn more about Ocean Connectors, please visit: www.oceanconnectors.org/

Contact Info: Stephanie Weagley, 805-644-1766, stephanie_weagley@fws.gov