In March 1998, the Coastal Conservancy authorized $3 million to the city of San Diego for the purchase of 200 acres of wildlife habitat in the Otay River Valley. The habitat will be permanently protected and improved, and trails and other recreational improvements will be developed consistent with habitat needs.

"Protecting habitat in the Otay River Valley is particularly important because the valley links neighboring habitats of the coast and the inland hills and lakes," said Robert Kirkwood, chair of the Coastal Conservancy. "When habitats are separated from each other, the survival of many species that depend on those habitats becomes much more difficult. The benefits of protecting the valley, therefore, will extend far beyond the valley itself."

The project is possible because in 1997, responding to Governor Wilson's recommendation and a strong effort by Assemblywoman Denise Ducheny, the state legislature appropriated $3 million to the Conservancy for the Otay River Valley from bond funds authorized by Proposition 204, the Safe, Clean, Reliable Water Act of 1996.

The Otay River Valley contains sixteen habitat types that are home to several rare and endangered plant and animal species, including Orcutt's bird's beak (a plant), San Diego barrel cactus, Otay tar weed, California gnat catcher, least Bell's vireo, and southwestern pond turtle. The habitats and natural resources of the valley have been damaged, and continue to be threatened, by encroaching development, pollution, and uncontrolled public use. The parcels to be purchased lie in the wide, thickly vegetated river flood plain between highways I-5 and I-805, and are bordered by heavily urbanized land in the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista. The habitat will be a critical part of the city of San Diego's Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), through which the city plans to establish a 172,000-acre wildlife preserve in southwestern San Diego County.

In addition to the Conservancy's purchases, the city of Chula Vista will spend over $867,000 to purchase adjacent parcels that lie within its boundaries.

The city's MSCP program is one of a number of sub-regional plans in San Diego County that make up the county's portion of the state's Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) program. The NCCP program is intended to protect endangered habitats and species and promote continued regional biodiversity by creating a network of large, interconnected habitat preserves throughout southern California.

The Coastal Conservancy has been working with local agencies and citizens to protect and restore the Otay River Valley for the past decade, and previously provided over $1,700,000 for planning, appraisals, and property acquisitions

Protection for Otay River Valley Wildlife Habitat