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Celebrate Earth Day with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy

FALLBROOK – One of the attributes that makes Fallbrook such a special place is the rural character of a small town. Even as the population grows and new homes and businesses are built, Fallbrook retains its natural beauty and open spaces, thanks in large part to the Fallbrook Land Conservancy.

The FLC is a local, 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to acquire, protect, and manage open space in perpetuity for the benefit of wildlife and the community. A great way to celebrate Earth Day is by supporting the FLC through a monetary donation or by contributing time as a volunteer or participating in one of the Earth Day weekend events (details below).

San Diego is the most biodiverse county in the continental United States. Its wide variety of elevations and habitat types has allowed the evolution of a rich collection of flora and fauna, some of which are only found in this region of the country.

However, since so many humans also love the climate and scenery of Southern California, it also has more imperiled wildlife species than any other county in the U.S. FLC preserves provide a sanctuary for these species and all our native wildlife. As the climate continues to change and habitat is converted to human uses, these preserves will be more important than ever.

The FLC not only provides resources to wildlife, but recreational opportunities to people as well. The non-profit owns over 3000 acres of land and protects another 1000 acres through conservation easements.

Much of this land is open to the public free of charge, including the popular Monserate Mountain Preserve and the FLC's flagship property, Los Jilgueros Preserve. Trails on these properties and others are the perfect place to get exercise, connect with friends or family, or observe birds and other wildlife.

FLC impacts the community in other ways as well. The Save Our Forest committee has led the establishment and maintenance of an urban treescape throughout the community of Fallbrook.

In fact, many of the beautiful trees seen blooming and growing along Fallbrook's roadways and downtown were planted and tended by the FLC's SOF. SOF also serves the community through its Environmental Education program, which connects local public school students to nature through hands-on outdoor experiences.

The FLC is able to accomplish this important work efficiently thanks to a volunteer board of directors, a small but dedicated staff, and many committee volunteers. Committees are focused on maintaining trails and restoring wildlife habitat on existing preserves, acquiring new properties, and fundraising to cover operating expenses.

In addition to purchasing land from willing sellers, using funding from donors and grants, land is acquired in other ways. FLC works with housing developers who are required to set aside land as mitigation for adverse impacts of construction, so that development happens in appropriate places and high-quality habitat is protected in the process.

Land is also preserved by private landowners who retain ownership of their property, while protecting it through conservation easements held by the FLC, a legal protection that stays with the land even if ownership changes.

FLC's sound financial management and sustainable land stewardship, confirmed by the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission, means that this organization will serve the community for many years to come. However, there are challenges that limit what is attainable.

Development continues at a rapid pace and increasing land costs combined with reduced donations means the FLC must prioritize which parcels to target for acquisition. Additional funding would allow the FLC to purchase more property from willing sellers, protecting more open space for generations to come.

FLC preserves are also at risk of being loved to death. The rising popularity, especially since Covid, of outdoor recreation means many more people are using trails than ever before. Outdoor recreation has shown to have measurable physical and mental health benefits, and the FLC is proud to provide these benefits to the community.

However, the impact of human activities on preserves, including litter, dog waste, and vandalism, is drastically increasing the cost of maintaining these preserves by FLC. Private donations and corporate sponsorships are critical for bridging the gap between invested endowment income that was set aside for the long-term management of these preserves and the current reality of human impact.

Another threat to FLC lands comes from nature itself. Many plants and some animals that originate in other parts of the world have been intentionally or inadvertently introduced to the U.S. and have become harmful to the local ecosystem.

Invaders like black mustard (Brassica nigra), yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), and crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria) grow so aggressively that they outcompete native plants, leading to a monoculture that doesn't support wildlife and increases fire danger.

Much of the resources FLC spends on preserves in terms of staff time and volunteer effort is aimed at controlling these invasive species and restoring native species.

"Think globally, act locally" has been a call of the environmental movement since the 1970's. Many of the challenges and opportunities the FLC faces are seen worldwide, but the residents of Fallbrook have a chance to make a difference in their own community.

They are fortunate that a few wise local citizens had the foresight in the 1980's to know that the rural nature of Fallbrook would not continue without proactive efforts to protect local open spaces. Their work to create the FLC and the many volunteers, donors, and staff who have continued their mission since 1988 mean Fallbrook has a strong, grassroots organization and beautiful, local nature preserves.

This Earth Day, residents should consider becoming a member of the FLC by making a gift of time or funds to further its mission, and be part of the important work to protect the local environment.

Residents can also celebrate by attending any of the FLC's Earth Day weekend events. On Saturday, April 20, the Trails Committee will be hosting a volunteer event at 8:30 a.m. and at 9 a.m. a guided Spring Nature Walk open to the public is offered at Los Jilgueros Preserve.

Volunteers will also be at the trailheads of Monserate Mountain Preserve, Los Jilgueros Preserve and others throughout the weekend to help visitors connect with the FLC. They can find out more about the FLC, locate their public preserves, find volunteer opportunities, and make a donation at https://www.fallbrooklandconservancy.org/ or follow FLC on Facebook or Instagram at @FallbrookLand.

Submitted by Fallbrook Land Conservancy.

 

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