Improving Habitat Value on Designated Conservation Lands
River Partners restored the floodplain along the San Dieguito River to accommodate endangered Arroyo Toad, and created new models for habitat recovery in designated conservation areas.
In 1997, the City of San Diego launched a Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP) that guides development and conservation for the City. Hosting more threatened and endangered species than any other county in California, wildlife habitat restoration is urgently needed within designated conservation lands throughout San Diego County.
In 2018, after 4 years of negotiations and discussions, River Partners restored the floodplain along the San Dieguito River upstream of Lake Hodges in the San Pasqual Valley of San Diego County. This project is a first step in realizing the tremendous opportunity for habitat recovery in MSCP-designated lands. Located within designated critical habitat for endangered Arroyo Toad, the project’s design was challenging. Like many endangered species, restoration methods for its habitat are not well-defined. We had trouble getting clear guidance about the types of methods we could employ to remove noxious weeds on the site and prepare it for planting without harming potential toad habitat. We tried mowing, harrowing, weed-eating and even hand pulling! We did toad surveys and engaged the experts. Finally, we were able to plant the area in Spring 2018 and begin to see the transformation: a former field of dense weeds with eerily few bird songs is now a diverse young stand of native plants, and the birdsongs are already increasing. We’re hoping to find toads moving in too.
During site preparation for this project, River Partners removed over 40 acres of dense infestations of noxious weeds such as giant reed (Arundo donax) and perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) that are known to provide little habitat value for riparian wildlife. Along with future phases of restoration, the total footprint of new habitat along this 5 miles of the San Dieguito River will total 588 acres. The lands are accessible by trail for hiking, biking and running.