Volume 14 - No. 1 - Winter 2004

· Back to Home

· Potrero Valley Saved

· San Diego River Park Takes Giant Step

· Honey Springs Ranch Added To Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve

· Orange County Litigation Moves Forward

· Key Cities Join Western Riverside Habitat Plan

· Opinion Editorial Published January 11, 2004

· EHL in the News

· Poetry by Jess Morton: “Sunset”

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Opinion Editorial Reprinted from the
January 11, 2004 Riverside Press-Enterprise

The purpose of the following was to build support among the cities to join the county in the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

Building balance

County conservation plan would ease growth restrictions while preserving endangered species, the environment

12:00 AM PST on Sunday, January 11, 2004
By DAN SILVER / Special to The Press-Enterprise

Thousands of families move to Riverside County every year. One big reason is the open space that still exists in the region, unlike elsewhere in Southern California .

You can look out the window of your car and see hillsides covered with wildflowers. You can picnic under the oaks, and get away from everyday cares. You can still tell where one community ends and the next one begins without each city merging into the next.

Many current residents left areas where all the hilltops were chopped off and graded, and where the streams had been turned into concrete ditches. But as Riverside County grows - it is set to double in population over the next 20 years - how can we make sure that its beauty and character are maintained?

Fortunately, there is the Riverside County Multi-Species Habitat and Conservation Plan (MSHCP), which would protect about 150,000 acres in a nature reserve. The main purpose of the plan is to support economic growth by satisfying current and future Endangered Species Act requirements. In that way, new development and highway projects can move forward without costly delays.

Other economic benefits include increased property values due to nearby open space, the focusing of growth so that providing services costs the taxpayer less money, and the creation of a high quality of life that high-tech businesses want for their employees. When a plan can boost the economy, as well as keep wildlife around for tomorrow's children, that is a true win-win situation.

The MSHCP was developed over a period of years with intense input from developers, landowners, planners and environmentalists. It enjoys a remarkable degree of consensus, with the support of both the Building Industry Association and Endangered Habitats League.

It was carefully crafted to protect the interests of landowners by providing timelines during which land will either be acquired, or development will go forward. It is fair and carefully thought through.

The MSHCP will be run by the elected officials of the cities and the county, with full public hearings. It will be financed by a combination of developer fees, project mitigation, and state and federal funds.

Local city and county general funds or personal taxes, such as the sales or property tax, will not be utilized. And by bringing state and federal monies back into the hands of local property owners who sell their lands, it is a net generator of investment dollars.

There is no time to lose in getting everyone on board. Some cities, such as Lake Elsinore , have been reluctant to participate because of the extent of conservation within their borders, and their elected officials are appropriately taking a hard look and asking tough questions.

Without the MSHCP, these lands would not be developed, anyway. With the plan, cities gain control that they don't have today over endangered species regulations.

In addition, both developers and conservationists gain certainty, and local infrastructure projects, such as road improvements linked to the plan, will move forward swiftly.

In an imperfect world, the MSHCP is still a best-case scenario. Fortunately, in several key areas, solutions are either completed or in the works, putting the plan substantially in place at the outset.

As the population grows, we need to serve people's needs for roads and utilities, for recreation and tranquility, for good jobs and houses, for outdoor classrooms, and for the opportunity to be thrilled by an eagle in flight. These balances are hard to find, and hard to implement. The MSHCP is a big part of the answer.

Dan Silver is the executive director for the Endangered Habitats League, a Southern California organization dedicated to ecosystem protection, sustainable land use and collaborative conflict resolution.

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