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San Diego River Park Foundation News and Updates

 

The Nature Conservation Movement cannot be silent on racism.


By Rob Hutsel, Chief Executive Officer ǀ June 2, 2020

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Black Lives Matter. We at the San Diego River Park Foundation are deeply disturbed by historical and recent racial violence against Black Americans. Racism and injustice are just simply wrong. 


The deaths of George Floyd and too many others is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue. We add our voice to those advocating for change.


I love being outdoors. I have never experienced a time where because of my skin color, I couldn’t be outdoors. Nature is for everyone. When Black and other communities of color can experience scrutiny, dehumanization and violence just by being outside, it means the nature conservation movement needs to do more. When everyone can’t enjoy the benefits of nature connections, we need to do more. We stand up and acknowledge that we have a role in doing more.


At the San Diego River Park Foundation, we aim to create a San Diego where people and nature thrive. Acts of racism and violence toward people of color threaten this goal, harm our communities, and put vulnerable lives at risk.


Many will ask why a nature conservation organization is weighing in. Does it really impact our mission? My answer is: yes, it does. And yes, we must speak out. When injustice reigns— whether it is unequal access to nature, unfair and inequitable laws, or police brutality—we must all do our part to push for change. 



ABOUT THE SAN DIEGO RIVER PARK FOUNDATION
Since 2001, the San Diego River Park Foundation has conserved and cared for the San Diego River and its ecosystem while connecting people to this amazing natural and cultural resource so that it thrives into the future.



Rooted for Good

By Chase Stafford

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Guardians of the River

by Chase Stafford

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Field Notes: Raptor Nesting in the San Diego River Gorge
By Chase Stafford


Sitting near the top of a dry waterfall, with majestic views over the San Diego River Gorge and the afternoon westerly winds whistling up from below, U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist Jeff Wells and The San Diego River Park Foundation field coordinator, Chase Stafford scan the cliff faces, searching for nesting raptors


The late February morning started a bit differently, with a search for a historic golden eagle nest site. The last time the nest was visited by the U.S. Forest Service was about five years ago. With a power line project planned nearby, it was important to know whether the nest was active so that it can be protected. The U.S. Forest Service contacted The San Diego River Park Foundation for help because access through the Foundation’s Eagle Peak Preserve offered what appeared to be the shortest route to visit the nest. However, after a brisk walk through dense thickets of whitethorn ceanothus for a half-mile, the group came to the consensus that reaching the nest from this path included the potential of traveling the same route in darkness on the return. That plan was best saved for another day, and instead, the River Park Foundation gave Jeff a short tour of the preserve.   
After a trip to check on some recent badger digs and sharing ideas for future species surveys and sensitive species conservation, Jeff offered his thoughts on the property: “That is a heck of an acquisition, especially because it is controlled. There is some great potential for native species reintroduction. The ponds could make great red-legged frog or pond turtle habitat.”


Following some additional wildlife camera shop talk, Jeff offered that there might be some prairie falcons nesting nearby, and the group ventured down the backcountry road to another part of Eagle Peak Preserve to check.  As they arrived at the new location, Jeff pointed out an old golden eagle nest and mentioned that this location is known to have nesting prairie falcons, peregrine falcons, and other raptors. The golden eagles have since moved over into a nest in the San Diego River Gorge, just over the hill. However, as Chase and Jeff scanned the cliffs, they found a smaller bird laying in the eagle’s old nest. Chase’s eyes quickly picked up that it was a peregrine falcon and commented, “That nest is huge!”  Jeff responded, “You could probably lay down in there!” Golden eagle nests are extremely large. They can be as much as six feet across and two feet high, making it a penthouse suite for the peregrine.  Then, further below, another raptor appeared from a white wash mark of bird droppings on the cliffs. Jeff identified it as a red tail hawk, and the peregrine immediately let out a piercing call to let the red tail know it wasn’t welcome.  With a red tail and peregrine nesting within lines of sight, these neighbors won’t necessarily get along, but hopefully will tolerate one another for the next few months until their eggs hatch and the chicks have fledged.  Compared to their urban cousins, however, these birds are living the quiet backcountry life with less human disturbance and wide open foraging. The rock face outcroppings and chaparral vegetation that paint the slopes of the Upper San Diego River Gorge provide suitable habitat and prey for these raptor species.


The day ended with plans for jointly monitoring an active golden eagle nest on the San Diego River Park Foundation’s El Cajon Mountain Preserve this spring, talk of coordinating gnatcatcher surveys, and finding a better route to the historic nest site. After saying farewell, the group returned to their vehicles and the dusty dirt road, heading out of the remote backcountry and back into the city. By working with partners like the U.S. Forest Service, The San Diego River Park Foundation is able to leverage its conserved lands and on-the-ground expertise to advance conservation and species protection on not only the more than 2,200 acres of land it owns, but also the entire majestic headwaters of the San Diego River Watershed.
These efforts to protect and conserve wildlife and wild spaces would not be possible without the generous support of our donors. Your help is needed to support future land acquisitions and long-term management of SDRPF’s preserves. If you would like to support future land acquisitions or our land management program, information on how to donate is here: https://www.sandiegoriver.org/give.html.


If you would like to volunteer to help care for our preserves, contact Chase Stafford at chase@sandiegoriver.org to learn more.

 

 

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