North County Plan
The North County Multiple Species Conservation Plan (North County Plan) would extend the County’s Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) into the northern portion of the unincorporated county. On October 28, 2020 (6), the Board of Supervisors directed staff to continue development of the North County Plan as a joint Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) to achieve many of the same environmental and economic benefits realized through the adopted County Subarea Plan (South County Plan).
A great deal of collaborative work has gone into development of the North County Plan. The input received from members of the Stakeholder Working Group, community groups, and other interested parties has been invaluable to the North County Plan. As additional information on the status of the North County Plan is available, interested parties will be notified.
The County invites you to participate in our online North County Plan Stakeholder Working Group & Virtual Public Workshops. At these meetings, staff will present updates to the draft Covered Species list and the anticipated Covered Activities, as well as provide an opportunity for you to ask questions and provide your thoughts on these topics. The information will be the same for all workshops, we have provided two public workshop dates for multiple opportunities to engage with staff.
The virtual Stakeholder Working Group meeting will take place Friday, April 14 from 3:30pm – 5:00pm. The Stakeholder Working Group includes a diverse group of stakeholders that represent the environmental, agricultural, recreational, and development communities and meets to review and discuss components of the draft plan, serving as a sounding board for their respective interest groups.
- For the April 14 meeting – Please use this Zoom link to access the meeting.
- In alignment with the County’s goals to increase transparency in government, the County invites interested members of the community to attend and listen in at our Stakeholder Working Group meetings. If you would like to address County staff or the Stakeholder Working Group on aspects of the North County Plan, there will be an opportunity at the start of the meeting for members of the public to provide a 2-minute public comment. Though not required in order to attend, please RSVP if you would like to provide a public comment so we can accommodate you.
The virtual public workshops will take place Tuesday, April 18 and Wednesday, April 26 from 6:00pm – 7:30pm. The information will be the same for both workshops, we have provided two dates for multiple opportunities for the public to engage with staff.
- For the April 18 meeting – Please use this Zoom link to register for the workshop and add the event to your calendar.
- For the April 26 meeting – Please use this Zoom link to register for the workshop and add the event to your calendar.
You will receive a confirmation e-mail and a numeric passcode to participate in the meeting.
If you have any questions, want to request interpretation services, or want to provide written comments, please contact Stephanie Neal at MSCP@sdcounty.ca.gov. Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.
To be notified of future opportunities to participate and other announcements on the North County Plan, please subscribe to our mailing list by clicking the banner below.
What is the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP)?
The Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) is a long-term, regional habitat conservation program that protects vulnerable species and their habitats while providing economic growth opportunities in the County of San Diego (County). Under this program, large blocks of interconnected habitat will be conserved through acquisition of land by private and public entities and mitigation from development.
A key part of the MSCP is the Covered Species List that identifies key species and habitats to conserve. The Covered Species List includes species listed as threatened or endangered under the Federal and California Endangered Species Acts as well as species that may become listed within the 50-year term of the MSCP. The MSCP meets regulations in accordance with the Federal and California Endangered Species Acts as a joint Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and a Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP). The purpose of the MSCP is to conserve Covered Species’ habitats while addressing potential impacts from economic growth.
For these potential impacts, projects are required by the Endangered Species Acts to obtain an incidental take permit to mitigate for potential impacts to listed species’ habitat. As a joint HCP/NCCP, the MSCP provides the basis for the County to receive an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), collectively referred to as the Wildlife Agencies. The incidental take permit the County receives through the MSCP can be extended to future development projects that comply with the MSCP so that those projects do not have to secure their own separate incidental take permits from the Wildlife Agencies. Through this permitting mechanism, the MSCP helps streamline permitting, provide regional conservation of natural habitats, and facilitate economic growth in San Diego County.
What area does the North County Plan cover?
The County’s Multiple Species Conservation Program (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 referred to as the County Subarea Plan (South County Plan), North County Plan, and East County Plan, respectively.
The North County Plan Area encompasses approximately 690,000 acres in and around the unincorporated communities of Bonsall, Central Mountain, Cuyamaca, De Luz, Fallbrook, Harmony Grove, Julian, Rancho Santa Fe, Lilac, North Mountain, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, Ramona, Rincon Springs, Twin Oaks Valley, and Valley Center within the County's jurisdiction.
If my land is included within the MSCP Plan Area, will I be still able
to develop it?
MSCP plans do not place a moratorium on development; however, all projects must be in conformance with the MSCP plan. How a project conforms varies depending on the type of development proposed. Some projects meet certain exemption criteria and do not require any modification, while others require revisions and mitigation in order for the project to conform. County staff will review each project and determine what is necessary for conformance with the MSCP plan.
Will the government condemn my land for the MSCP?
No land will be condemned to achieve the goals of the MSCP. The County will only purchase land from willing sellers. Federal and state agencies involved with land acquisition have stated similar restrictions on condemnation.
Can I sell my land to the MSCP?
The County has an obligation to acquire land for preserve within areas covered by MSCP plans. Since the inception of the MSCP, the County has negotiated and purchased several properties from willing sellers. The County will consider purchasing land that meets certain criteria, including whether the property is important in completing the planned preserve system for the region. If you are interested in potentially selling land to the County, contact the Real Estate Services Division of the Department of General Services at (858) 694-2291.
What is a Covered Species?
A key component of the North County Plan is its Covered Species list, which identifies species in the Plan Area that are either currently listed as threatened or endangered under the California or Federal Endangered Species Acts or may become listed during the term of the MSCP Plan. These species are “covered” by the County’s incidental take permit, meaning that projects that demonstrate conformance with the North County Plan will not need to obtain separate permits from the Wildlife Agencies for potential species impacts.
Do MSCP plans allow developers to avoid the federal and state endangered
While developers do benefit from the permit streamlining that MSCP plans provide, the regional preservation of important biological resources is the main goal of the program. MSCP plans are created to provide protection for sensitive plant and animal species, as well as sensitive habitat types. Through implementation of MSCP plans, biological resources are protected, guidelines are provided for development, and programs for land acquisition are established. MSCP plans set forth specific preserve design considerations, limitations to impacts, and minimum mitigation requirements for all development projects. The County has a section 10(a) permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that allows Incidental Take of threatened and/or endangered species that are covered by MSCP plans. Take Authority under the County's 10(a) permit may be transferred to individual projects, providing third-party beneficiary status. This third-party beneficiary status is transferred after specific findings are made on issues such as preserve design, avoidance of sensitive resources, and preservation of wildlife movement corridors. The County's granting of third-party beneficiary status means that developers do not need to obtain individual permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or California Department of Fish & Wildlife for species covered under MSCP plans, which can substantially reduce the time and cost for a project.
How will being in an MSCP area affect the processing of my subdivision
The time and costs involved with the County’s environmental review of a project are made more efficient by the MSCP. Rather than each individual project undergoing review with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and/or California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to receive incidental take permits, the MSCP allows projects to receive coverage under the County’s incidental take permit by demonstrating compliance with the plan. While a project will still need to assess and mitigate for its direct impacts, the MSCP allows for programmatic level mitigation for indirect and cumulative impacts.
In addition, there are already a number of factors that may affect development, including critical habitat designations and listings of species as rare, threatened, and endangered. Your project may require revisions depending on its location within the MSCP plan area and biological resources present. You may also be required to mitigate for impacts your project might have on sensitive resources. However, projects outside of a MSCP plan area are subject to similar constraints due to CEQA requirements. Therefore, review of the project will not be significantly different due to the MSCP.
Can I clear vegetation for fire safety within the MSCP?
County Fire Marshals require the clearing of hazardous vegetation close to houses and buildings in the unincorporated area. However, concerns are raised by citizens as to whether these activities would be in violation of the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. The County Fire Chief's Association and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 1997. This MOU exempts the incidental take of endangered species by landowners complying with a Fire Marshal's Order, which is generally 100 feet of clearing from a residential structure.
Clearing in areas beyond that required by the Fire Marshal's Order may require permits issued by federal, state, and/or County of San Diego authorities. For more information, please contact the Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS), Zoning Information Counter, at (858) 565-5981.