About Us

A stand of Dichelostemma (Dipterostemon capitatus) flower after good rain year.
​​​​These flowers are also commonly known as blue dicks. 

The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is not just a place for wildlife, but a refuge for the city-dwelling neighbors who surround it. Established in 1996 and stretching over 12,300 acres from the city of Jamul to communities in Spring Valley and eastern Chula Vista, the refuge is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s contribution to the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), a landscape-wide habitat conservation plan to preserve habitat and species while allowing appropriate development. 

Guided by ongoing biological surveys and endangered species monitoring programs, the management of this refuge also relies on its non-profit partners and cooperative agencies to ensure the goals established in its Comprehensive Conservation Plan are accomplished.

Open grasslands, cool riverine corridors, and oak woodlands are some of the habitats being actively restored, once degraded by prior human uses and wildfire. Public trails that support hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are maintained while still providing for the sensitive species it is mandated to protect.

Our Mission

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Our History

San Diego National Wildlife Refuge was established on April 10, 1996 under the authorities of the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, Endangered Species Act of 1973, and Refuge Recreation Act of 1962.

Per the Service’s commitment to provide a contribution towards the implementation of the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), studies to establish the San Diego NWR were initiated in 1995. A Concept Plan for the San Diego NWR, which included the Vernal Pools and Otay-Sweetwater planning areas, was distributed to government agencies, tribes, interested citizens, and landowners within and adjacent to the planning areas. The Otay-Sweetwater Unit represented the largest expanse of undeveloped land in the MSCP planning area and was considered one of the MSCP’s cornerstone conservation areas.

In 1992, approximately 1,830 acres of undeveloped land owned by Home Federal Savings and Loan were placed in Federal receivership under the control of the Resolution Trust Corporation. These parcels were identified as a core biological resource area. The Service recognized that the acquisition of these lands would prevent the loss of habitats critically important to the recovery of listed species and would represent an important contribution by the Federal government to the MSCP. Based on the sensitivity of the biological resources present on the parcels, as well as the importance of this area to the implementation of the MSCP, the Service entered into a purchase agreement with the Resolution Trust Corporation and on April 10, 1996 approximately 1,826 acres were acquired by the Service and marked the establishment of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.

A Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the San Diego NWR was initiated in 2006 and in 2021, the Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge was published in the Federal Register. 

Other Facilities in this Complex

San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Refuge complex is comprised of Seal Beach NWR, San Diego Bay NWR, San Diego NWR, and Tijuana Slough NWR.