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News - Conservation Partners Restore San Dieguito River Habitat

Natural Resources Conservation Service - News Release

Conservation Partners Restore San Dieguito River Habitat

Jonathan Groveman (530) 792-5692
Shea O’Keefe (760) 745-2061

ESCONDIDO, Calif., December 20, 2012—Daily commuters may have noticed exciting activity happening near the San Dieguito River recently. Helicopters have been airlifting out wildfire-burned logs and other debris since September, capping a multi-year effort to restore the river back to health – complete with native vegetation and restored habitat for various wildlife species.

Federal, state and local conservation agencies and partners have pooled their resources to invest nearly $4 million to restore wildfire-burn zones, remove invasive plants, and improve habitat for endangered species. A number of innovative conservation techniques have been incorporated including using helicopters to remove debris so as to not damage an identified Native American archeological site nearby.

"Driving past the wildfire damage in 2008 gave me great inspiration to restore this area back to a healthy and productive state," said Shea O’Keefe, biologist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "Over the next year, we worked together with a number of partners to create a restoration plan and raise funds to complete the necessary work."

Using Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) funding, provided through the 2002 Farm Bill, NRCS was able to invest $650,000 of the total restoration cost, between 2009-2012, to remove invasive arundo plants and wildfire-scorched eucalyptus trees, and eventually re-vegetate sections of the San Dieguito River riparian corridor with native plant species. This work improved habitat for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Arroyo Toad, amongst other endangered and common wildlife species.

Large sections of the San Dieguito River riparian corridor, spanning from Julian to Rancho Santa Fe, were damaged in the 2007 Witch Creek Fire. NRCS initially approached the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy organization to identify five project areas that would provide the greatest restoration benefit. Additional partners, including California Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Transportation, San Diego Gas and Electric and the San Diego Joint Power Authority, provided technical and financial assistance to complete work on 500 total acres.

NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America's private land owners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935. For more information about NRCS in California, please visit


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