East County Plan

The East County Multiple Species Conservation Plan (East County Plan) would extend the County’s Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) into the eastern portion of the unincorporated county. A great deal of collaborative work has gone into development of the East County Plan, including release of a preliminary draft map in 2008. For all parties who have participated to date, the dedication of time and interest is appreciated. The input received from members of the Steering Committee, community groups, and other interested parties has been invaluable to the East County Plan.

Unfortunately, County budget constraints and staffing reductions have caused progress of the East County Plan to slow significantly. Once the budget and staffing constraints are resolved, plan development is intended to resume. As additional information on the status of the East County Plan is available, interested parties will be notified.

Project Contact: MSCP@sdcounty.ca.gov


In 1992, the State of California enacted the Natural Communities Conservation Planning (NCCP) Act. This voluntary program allows the state government to enter into planning agreements with landowners, local governments, and other stakeholders to prepare plans that identify the most important areas for a threatened or endangered species. The federal government has a similar program under Section 10(a) of the federal Endangered Species Act providing for the preparation of habitat conservation plans (HCPs). In California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Wildlife Agencies) have worked to combine the NCCP program with the federal HCP process to provide permits to take threatened and endangered species in exchange for conserving their habitat. Local governments, such as the County, can take the lead in developing these plans and become the recipient of state and federal permits.

The Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) is a long-term, regional HCP/NCCP focused on balancing two unique aspects of San Diego County: high biological diversity and rapid urban growth. Under this program, large blocks of interconnected habitat will be conserved through acquisition of land by private and public entities and mitigation from development.

The County’s MSCP is comprised of three separate planning areas covering unincorporated regions of San Diego. The MSCP Plans associated with each of the planning areas are the County Subarea Plan (South County Plan), North County Plan, and East County Plan, respectively. Each MSCP Plan Area’s unique geography requires that each MSCP Plan is tailored to meet the needs of the unique habitats and species in its respective area.

The East County Plan will extend the scope of the MSCP to contribute to the conservation of sensitive species and habitats while providing a streamlined permitting process for landowners, agricultural operators, businesses, and residents in the unincorporated regions of northwestern San Diego County. The East County Plan Study Area covers approximately 1.6 million acres and is bounded on the west generally by the western boundary of the Cleveland National Forest, on the north by the Riverside County, and on the east predominantly by Imperial County, and the south by Mexico.

As a joint HCP/NCCP, the East County Plan will provide the basis for the County to receive a federal and state incidental take permit to “cover” specific animal and plant species. This allows the incidental take permit to be extended to future development projects that comply with the MSCP, so these projects do not have to secure their own separate incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Through this permitting mechanism, the East County Plan will help conserve endangered species, streamline permitting, and facilitate economic growth in San Diego County.