June 12, 2024

Moonrise – This saddle connects the Conservancy’s Harmony Heights Preserve to San Elijo Hills across the 160-acre White Atterbury property.

Connecting Conservation Corridors – Help Save Frank’s Peak!

A New Land Preservation Campaign by The Escondido Creek Conservancy, by Ann Van Leer 

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) recently announced a new land preservation campaign called Connecting Conservation Corridors.  The Conservancy is seeking donations to preserve three important conservation properties that link to, or are surrounded by, other preserved lands in San Elijo Hills, Elfin Forest, and Harmony Grove. Included on the target list is the 160-acre White-Atterbury property which immediately connects the Conservancy’s Harmony Heights Preserve in Harmony Grove to preserved lands in the City of San Marcos.  Wildlife in San Marcos can also travel to preserved lands in the City of Carlsbad. The White-Atterbury property includes Frank’s Peak, an iconic view visible from many points in San Elijo Hills, San Marcos, and North County. Learn more about the campaign at: https://escondidocreek.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Connecting-Conservation-Corridors-2023.pdf.   

The Conservancy’s purpose in this campaign is to protect habitat for threatened and endangered species so people and wildlife will thrive in North County into the future; a special focus is to protect lands suitable for the coastal California gnatcatcher like the White-Atterbury property. The coastal California gnatcatcher is a diminutive songbird which lives in the same areas where millions of people want to reside, coastal southern California. As a result, this charismatic bird finds itself threatened with extinction as rooftops have replaced the coastal sage shrub habitat it needs to live. 

Fortunately, the Conservancy and its conservation partners have been purchasing land in North County for the past decade-plus to create an interconnected system of wildlife preserves where native plants and animals will have a chance to thrive alongside humans. The White-Atterbury property is a key acquisition that, once preserved, creates a wildlife corridor between Harmony Grove and San Elijo Hills that will never be developed. This is the first major purchase by the Conservancy in the City of San Marcos. 

Longtime San Elijo Hills resident Jerry Block is a volunteer land steward who helps the Conservancy care for its preserved lands. “The Conservancy has done a tremendous job acquiring and restoring land in North County. It will be an exceptional neighbor to San Elijo Hills and, with this purchase, will help our community maintain its quality of life and views. I urge all my neighbors to contribute and help the campaign,” said Block.

The White-Atterbury property is now privately owned and accessing it without the permission of the current owner is trespassing. The property has previously been proposed for development. While the primary purpose of the Conservancy’s acquisition is to protect the property as wildlife habitat, should the Conservancy be successful in saving the property, it will work with the wildlife and funding agencies to determine if respectful public access can be regularly allowed to Frank’s Peak. The Conservancy has the property in contract and will be taking groups up Franks’s Peak in 2024 as part of the Connecting Conservation Corridors land preservation campaign. If you’d like to join a walk with the Conservancy, please follow the Conservancy on Eventbrite.com to be notified. 

Protecting the target properties that are part of Connecting Conservation Corridors leverages previous conservation investments by the Conservancy and others which led to the creation of North County nature preserves such as the Keithley Preserve in Elfin Forest and the La Costa Preserve in Carlsbad. Over $50 million has been spent over the past decade+ by the Conservancy and others to purchase conservation lands in this area, known by wildlife biologists as the “Gnatcatcher Core” of the North County multiple species planning area.

“The future of conservation in North County is at stake. Shoring up protected lands in Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove and saving the White-Atterbury property, this vital connection between Harmony Grove and San Elijo Hills, is essential,” said Conservancy Board President Richard Murphy.  

The three campaign targets were chosen because of their strategic locations but also because they are currently available for the Conservancy to purchase.  Working with willing sellers is an essential part of the Conservancy’s success. Sellers must be willing to sell at fair market value. 

By donating to the Conservancy’s Land Fund, North County residents are advancing the conservation legacy begun by the Conservancy in the early 90s which led to the eventual creation of the Keithley Preserve in Elfin Forest, the Harmony Heights Preserve in Harmony Grove and more recently the Leomar Preserve in Olivenhain.  Additionally critical is maintaining that wild link through San Elijo Hills to preserved lands in San Marcos and Carlsbad. Donate here at: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/escondido-creek-conservancy/connecting-conservation-corridors-a-missing-lynx-project  

The Conservancy mixes private and public funds to purchase conservation land. Private donations illustrate the care and commitment of nearby communities to prioritize the protection of nature in their neighborhoods.  Grant funders often assess community support before providing the Conservancy with significant grant money; private donations are an important way to measure community support.

“The Escondido Creek Conservancy is seeking donations, of any size, to help advance the campaign,” said Conservancy Board member Lisa Ruder.  “These acquisitions link together natural areas of North County such that multiple neighborhoods benefit.” 

By keeping North County a place where wildlife can always thrive, humans benefit too. 

As Dr. Seuss’ Lorax so profoundly said, “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” North County residents have stepped up in many ways, over many decades now, to improve their communities by protecting nature. Residents can continue that legacy by donating to the Conservancy’s Land Fund to support Connecting Conservation Corridors. Doing so further protects and enhances North County-forever!

2 thoughts on “Connecting Conservation Corridors – Help Save Frank’s Peak!

  1. Why would access be cut off after the sale? 100% supportive of preserving this land and maintaining the trail connection from San Elijo to Elfin Forest. Have ridden this route for almost 30 years and it is an absolute treasure.

  2. The preservation of these lands would be a critically important win for the wildlife still left in the increasingly isolated hills of North County. Wildlife corridors are essential for allowing our other-than-human beings quality of life as well. We’ve taken way more than our fair share of land from them. Let’s preserve and protect what’s left.

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