On June 30, Buena Vista Audubon Society closed escrow on the purchase of the Cheatham property, a 31-acre, former dairy farm in the hills above the San Luis Rey River. Nestled between Camp Pendleton and open land along the river, this acquisition links together four contiguous protected areas: Camp Pendleton directly to the north, and a piece of city owned property and Whelan Lake Bird Sanctuary to the east. The city-owned property was restored in 2015 to provide habitat for the endangered southwest willow flycatcher and least Bell’s vireo.
BVAS plans to restore their new property to a coastal sage scrub habitat, suitable for the federally protected California gnatcatcher and other species of wildlife. Because it lies adjacent to Camp Pendleton, it qualified for a military program that funds open-space acquisition and habitat restoration of lands buffering military bases. Through this program, the Navy agreed to pay for half the $1.56 million in acquisition costs and all of the restoration and long-term management costs.
Buena Vista Audubon applied to the California State Natural Resources Agency for a grant to help fund the other half of the acquisition costs, and was awarded all but about $115,000. BVAS members and partners stepped up to help make up the shortfall: Donations from members covered about $40,000, while North County Advocates, California Audubon’s Wimberly Fund, and the Malk Nature Fund made up the difference by contributing $20,000, $25,000, and $30,000, respectively.
The Navy is currently reviewing BVAS’s comprehensive restoration and management plan. When approved (anticipated to occur this fall), the five-year restoration process will begin with weed removal, followed by plantings and seeding of native plants. Once the native plant habitat is restored, long-term management into perpetuity will kick in, which includes activities such as yearly maintenance and monitoring of the property.
(Submitted by Natalie Shapiro, President BVAS)