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SAN DIEGO NWR: Hidden Valley Land Acquisition Celebrates the Power of Partnerships
California-Nevada Offices , July 11, 2012
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Stakeholders and conservation partners gather to cut the ribbon for 1,905 acres of habitat just acquired on the San Diego NWR.
Stakeholders and conservation partners gather to cut the ribbon for 1,905 acres of habitat just acquired on the San Diego NWR. - Photo Credit: Earl S. Cryer Photography
From left to right: Paul McKim, Assistant Regional Director, External Affairs for the Pacific Southwest Region; Andy Yuen, Project Leader for the San Diego NWRC; and Rowan Gould, Deputy Director of Operations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
From left to right: Paul McKim, Assistant Regional Director, External Affairs for the Pacific Southwest Region; Andy Yuen, Project Leader for the San Diego NWRC; and Rowan Gould, Deputy Director of Operations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. - Photo Credit: Earl S. Cryer Photography

By Lisa Cox, Public Outreach

One of the largest conservation land acquisitions in the south San Diego County’s recent history was announced on a warm July morning, when the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and its partners celebrated a 1,905-acre addition, known as Hidden Valley, to the refuge.

The conservation of this important wildlife habitat area was made possible through partnerships involving the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), The Nature Conservancy, and the Department of the Interior and its agencies, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). SANDAG provided $10 million through their Environmental Mitigation Program for the acquisition. To streamline the environmental permitting for future transportation projects, SANDAG, with concurrence of California Department of Transportation, provided up-front mitigation by acquiring wildlife habitats consistent with the landscape-level regional habitat conservation plans for San Diego. CBP, through the Department of Homeland Security and working with the Department of the Interior, provided $8 million as their commitment to environmental stewardship and mitigation from border fence construction. This is the first land acquisition mitigation effort from the construction project to be completed.

The Nature Conservancy played a significant leadership role as the broker, negotiating the transaction with Hidden Valley Development LLC at a price that SANDAG officials said was $2 million below the appraised value. “This is one (parcel) that has been at the top of the wish list for a long time, in terms of ones that we were hoping would get conserved,” said Chris Basilevac, a senior project director for The Nature Conservancy in San Diego. “It’s pretty remarkable that were able to pull together $18 million in this economic environment,” he said. “I think it shows that when you have an important property and a great coalition of partners you can make it happen.”

The Service is committed to developing partnerships that resolve complex land use and biological conservation challenges by using flexibility within the Endangered Species Act. Species such as the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly, the threatened California gnatcatcher, and other sensitive or rare species are supported by the coastal sage scrub, grasslands, and oak woodlands found on the Hidden Valley parcel. San Diego NWR was established to help recover populations of endangered and threatened species, and to support the exceptional biological diversity of San Diego in conjunction with partners under the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP). This new land acquisition helps accomplish the goals of the refuge and the MSCP.

“It’s a strategic piece that fills in a gap in the refuge and also connects us to other conserved lands,” said Andy Yuen, project leader for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Public trail access is being developed for the parcel. The San Diego NWR has grown from about 1,800 acres in 1996, to over 11,100 acres today and serves as an important link in connecting wildlife habitats and public trails managed by the California Department of Fish and Game, Bureau of Land Management, City of San Diego, City of Chula Vista, County of San Diego, and other private and public conservation partners in south San Diego County.

Hidden Valley will now be conserved for wildlife and the public forever as part of the San Diego NWR.


Click here for photos of the ribbon-cutting and other photos of the Refuge:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/sets/72157627412302338/
Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov



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