North County Plan - Overview
The Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) is a long-term, regional habitat conservation program 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 in the South County, North County, and East County. 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.
North County Plan
The North 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 land owners, agricultural operators, businesses, and residents in the unincorporated regions of northwestern San Diego County.
As a joint Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan, the North County Plan will meet the requirements of the Federal Endangered Species Act and California’s Natural Community Conservation Planning Act. The North 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 (Covered 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 (USFWS) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Through this permitting mechanism, the MSCP – North County Plan will help conserve Covered Species, streamline permitting, and facilitate economic growth in San Diego County.
North County Plan Area and Preserve
The North County Plan Area encompasses 345,000 acres in and around the unincorporated communities of Bonsall, De Luz, Fallbrook, Harmony Grove, Rancho Santa Fe, Lilac, Pala, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, Ramona, Rincon Springs, Twin Oaks Valley, and Valley Center within the County's jurisdiction. Within the North County Plan Area, 290,480 acres are subject to the County’s land use authority and the requirements of the North County Plan, which excludes tribal lands, U.S. Forest Service lands, and most water district lands.
The North County Plan establishes a process for assembling a Preserve essential for the conservation of species on the Covered Species List and the seven major vegetation communities in the North County Plan Area. These vegetation communities within the North County Plan Area include scrub, chaparral, grassland, meadows, vernal pools, bog and marsh, riparian habitat, and upland woodland and forest. The Preserve will be comprised of an interconnected system of large blocks of habitat to allow for species movement among a diversity of vegetation communities and range of elevations. The current draft preserve network is shown on the North County Plan Area and Preserve.
North County Plan Elements
Main elements of the North County Plan defines and includes parameters for the Covered Species List, the Pre-Approved Mitigation Area, the Biological Mitigation Ordinance, and the Framework Resource Management Plan.
Using these elements, the North County Plan will work to conserve San Diego’s high biological diversity while allowing for continued economic growth. It will facilitate regional habitat conservation by regulating potential impacts to sensitive species and their habitats while extending the County’s incidental take permit's authorization to help streamline permitting for development projects that meet the North County Plan’s requirements.
Covered Species List
The Covered Species List will include species that are either currently listed as threatened or endangered under the California or Federal Endangered Species Act or may become listed during the 50-year term of the North County Plan. Species included on the Covered Species List will be covered by the County’s incidental take permit.
A Watch List includes species that are not yet listed as threatened or endangered but that are being “watched” because they are vulnerable and could be listed during the 50-year term of the North County Plan. Several of these species may also serve as indicator species to determine whether habitat health and connectivity are being maintained within the North County Plan Area.
Pre-Approved Mitigation Area
The Pre-Approved Mitigation Area (PAMA) represents the area with highest biological value in the North County Plan Area, within which the Covered Species and their habitats are anticipated to be found. The North County Plan will encourage development outside of the PAMA and encourage preservation within the PAMA with lower mitigation ratios outside of the PAMA and higher mitigation ratios inside of the PAMA.
Biological Mitigation Ordinance
The Biological Mitigation Ordinance will provide preserve design criteria, including avoidance, minimization, and mitigation requirements for development within the North County Plan Area to encourage conservation of vegetation communities within the PAMA.
Framework Resource Management Plan
The Framework Resource Management Plan (FRMP) will provide guidelines on preserve-level stewardship, a framework for monitoring and management of natural vegetation communities, a framework for monitoring and management of the covered animal and plant species, trail siting criteria, and guidance for inclusion of other public access facilities, such as staging areas and other public uses.