The Coast News Group
This photo of the Preserve shows riparian habitat along the stream and coastal sage scrub habitat in the upland areas. The steep drainage from the portion of Escondido Creek within the Preserve makes the space an ideal place for wildlife movement like mountain lions and bobcats, said Jim Rocks, the Preserve’s habitat manager. Photo courtesy of San Diego Habitat Conservancy
Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

New preserve protects rare habitats, threatened animals and plants

RANCHO SANTA FE — Protecting rare habitats that are home to threatened animals and plants, the Bridges & Santa Fe Creek Open Space Preserve has been established after an eight-year effort by SDHC (San Diego Habitat Conservancy). The 112.09-acre Preserve exemplifies San Diego’s unique range of habitats that include the Southern Cottonwood-Willow Riparian Forest and one of the most rare in the world, the Diegan Coastal Sage Scrub habitat, said Jim Rocks, the Preserve’s habitat manager.

“Almost every single type of native habitat we have in the county is considered rare,” said SDHC Executive Director Don Scoles. “There is only a few places in the world that have that kind of biodiversity.”

This map shows the land in Rancho Santa Fe that is now protected by the Bridges & Santa Fe Creek Open Space Preserve. The large space ensures that animals are not isolated by roads and are free to roam, said Jim Rocks, the Preserve’s habitat manager. Image courtesy of San Diego Habitat Conservancy

The Preserve runs along Escondido Creek and connects with other large areas of undeveloped land, making it an even more perfect location to protect a wide variety of some of San Diego’s rare animal and plant species.

“(The range of habitats in the Preserve is) rare naturally, and it’s rarer because of all of the development pressure in San Diego and California,” said Rocks.

Among its wide variety of animals, the Preserve is home to six pairs of threatened California Gnatcatchers. There are only roughly 2,000 pairs of these birds in the U.S., said Rocks.

There have also been anecdotal reports from residents that mountain lions and bobcats have been seen on the Preserve over the years, which Rocks believes is very likely given the Preserve’s resources.

The rare Sticky Dudleya, which is only found in San Diego, Orange and Riverside Counties, also grows within the Preserve, said Rocks.

SDHC will manage the Preserve to try to maintain the land’s current state, ensuring that invasive species and human interference do not degrade the site. SDHC will send a biologist out monthly to collect data about the site’s changes over time, as well as have professionals clear weeds and trash periodically.

Because the Preserve has just been established, SDHC is currently working on an initial survey of the land.

The group plans to install wildlife cameras along Escondido Creek to record what animals are using the creek and where they are going, said Rocks. They are particularly interested in recording mountain lions, bobcats and mule deer, all of which are known to use large tracks of land similar to the Preserve.

SDHC will also host outreach and education sessions for residents to keep informed about the site.