The City of Carlsbad has set aside nearly 6,200 acres of open space as preserves for plants and wildlife through an environmental program called the Habitat Management Plan, which is marking its 16th year.
City staff recently released the Habitat Management Plan’s annual report for 2020, and held a virtual public meeting Tuesday, March 9, to discuss the findings. Attending the meeting was City of Carlsbad Senior Program Manager Rosanne Humphrey, who oversees the plan and coordinates with the preserve managers, wildlife agencies and members of the public.
One of the most noteworthy achievements for the Habitat Management Division in 2020 was the fulfillment of the Gnatcatcher Core Area obligation. This requirement was established to make certain that the city obtained 308 acres of coastal sage scrub in a specific core habitat area that is critical to the survival of the coastal California gnatcatcher, a federally threatened species that lives in Southern California. This obligation was met 34 years ahead of schedule, which saved money by paying today’s prices and avoiding higher future costs from increasing land value.
Another accomplishment in 2020 was the city’s the acquisition of the Aura Circle property. This property, near Kelly Drive and El Camino Real, will provide 15.1 acres of native habitat, which will be added to the preserve system and provide an opportunity for a hiking trail and beautiful hill top views.
Established in 2004 and approved by state and federal environmental agencies, the Habitat Management Plan marked its 16th year in 2020 with 6,195 acres of natural land preserved as habitat for plants and wildlife, never to be developed. The goal is to preserve 6,478 acres of natural open pace after all development in the city has occurred. As of 2020, the city has achieved 96% of that target. The Habitat Management Plan improves Carlsbad residents’ quality of life by protecting sensitive plant and animal species while preserving natural open space. Carlsbad is the only city in North San Diego County with an approved Habitat Management Plan.
The Habitat Management Plan serves a dual purpose of preserving land for environmentally sensitive species while providing clear guidelines to developers who wish to build in Carlsbad. Developers agree to set aside land for preservation and endow the preserves so they can be managed and monitored in perpetuity. In this way natural open space is preserved without taxpayers paying to buy the land.
The city-owned, natural open space preserves, which account for only about ten percent of the total preserve system, are managed by the Center for Natural Land Management, a nonprofit organization that specializes in overseeing natural open spaces. Other preserves are managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Center for Natural Lands Management, San Diego Habitat Conservancy and Urban Corps San Diego Habitat Services.