The 347,000 acres of public and quasi-public lands already set aside as habitat are at the heart of the western Riverside County MSHCP. Within these lands, tens of thousands of acres are designated as habitat reserves.
These reserves are important partners in RCA’s efforts to monitor and manage conserved land in Riverside County.
Hidden Valley Wildlife Area is located along the Santa Ana River just east of Norco on, Arlington Avenue across from Crestlawn Cemetery, one mile west of La Sierra Avenue. The 1500 acres is managed as a park with 25 miles of hiking and equestrian trails and a Nature Center. Important habitat for migratory birds.
Box Spring Reserve lies on a steep and rugged granitic slope near the top of Box Springs Mountain, in a transitional zone between coastal sage scrub and chamise chaparral. A cold spring on the adjacent land gives rise to freshwater seeps and an intermittent stream. Rich in vertebrates, the 160-acre reserve hosts nineteen species of reptiles, including three rare species: the coast horned lizard, the orange-throated whiptail, and the red diamond rattlesnake. Sixteen species of mammals inhabit the reserve, including the Pacific kangaroo rat, mountain lion, and mule deer. Also observed on site are over eighty-five bird species. Soaring and hunting on the updrafts are many raptors, such as golden eagle, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, white-tailed kite, northern harrier, and American kestrel. Other avian species frequently seen are white-throated swift, Anna’s hummingbird, rock and canyon wrens, lazuli bunting, western meadowlarks, and rufous-crowned, black-chinned, and sage sparrows.
Sycamore Canyon is a nature reserve owned and managed by the City of Riverside.
The Lake Mathews – Estelle Mountain Reserve is jointly owned and managed by Metropolitan Water District, the California Department of Fish & Game, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency.
Steele Peak is a reserve comprised of lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency. The lands are independently managed by each entity.
Potrero ACEC is a reserve owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management
The Motte Rimrock Reserve lies on a broad, rocky plateau at the western edge of Perris Valley. It contains rich archaeological resources, including some of the best-preserved pictographs in Southern California. Coastal and desert influences intermingle at the site, creating an unusual mix of habitats. An inland type of coastal sage scrub covers most of the reserve, with other areas supporting chaparral, coastal-desert transitional grassland, and riparian thickets. Six seasonal springs add to the diversity of the landscape. The 715-acre reserve protects critical habitat for a variety of animals, including two federally listed species: the endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat and the threatened California gnatcatcher, plus ten more rare animal species.
The Emerson Oaks Reserve in the Temecula Valley lies in a transitional zone between the California coast and the Colorado Desert. Four major climatic zones: mountain, desert, coastal, and interior valley converge on site, helping influence a variety of habitats. Oak woodlands and coastal sage scrub habitats are found on the reserve’s lower and gentler slopes. The higher and more rugged elevations support oak trees and dense stands of chaparral. These diverse habitats and several permanent springs help support a wide variety of wildlife. Observed fauna include: mule deer, kangaroo rats, hawks (Cooper’s, red-tailed, and red-shouldered), American kestrel, western scrub jays, wrentits, Hutton’s vireo, California thrashers, rattlesnakes (red diamond and Southern Pacific), orange-throated whiptail, coast horned lizard, and a variety of butterflies, including the California sister and Lorquin’s admiral. The reserve, which is protected by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is bordered by the Pechanga Indian Reservation, Agua Tibia Wilderness, Dorland Mountain Artists’ Retreat, agricultural land, scattered residences, and lands held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve is located on an alluvial bench situated at the lower end of Hall Canyon, a steep, western flank of Black Mountain. The reserve hosts a wide variety of plant communities: Sierra mixed conifer riparian forest, oak woodlands, montane chaparral, alder-willow-cedar riparian forest, and dry meadows. Habitats include mixed conifer and hardwood forest, montane chaparral, montane riparian forest, rapidly flowing mountain stream with manmade reservoir (Lake Fulmor) immediately downstream. The entire watershed is protected for research and study by the U.S. Forest Service. There are records of 259 species of vascular plants, 35 bryophytes, 6 amphibians, 18 reptiles, 125 birds (60 percent nesting), 35 mammals, and ~1,000 invertebrates.
San Jacinto Wildlife Area/Lake Perris Reserve is 20,000 acres and includes 9,000 acres of restored wetlands including ponds. The first state wildlife area to utilize reclaimed water to enhance its wetlands, improvements are ongoing. Waterfowl, wadding birds, and quail are a few of the many animals found here. The San Jacinto Wildlife Area shares a common boundary with the 8,800-acre Lake Perris State Recreation Area. The low lying areas within the San Jacinto River floodplain (below 1430 foot elevation) contain examples of alkali sink scrub, fresh water marsh, and cottonwood-willow riparian habitat. The hillsides surrounding the San Jacinto River floodplain are largely dominated by Riversidian Sage Scrub.
French Valley Wildlife Area is 702 acres of coastal sage scrub, southern willow scrub, grasslands, eucalyptus woodlands and prior dry-land farming agricultural lands. The state wildlife area is located east of Temecula and southwest of Lake Skinner. Rolling hills with elevations from 1,300′-1,600’.
The Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Reserve contains more than 13,500 acres of natural lands surrounding both Lake Skinner and Diamond Valley Lake between Hemet and Temecula. Preserved in perpetuity, the reserve was formed in part as an environmental mitigation measure for the Diamond Valley Lake project by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The reserve contains several different types of native California habitat, including coastal sage scrub, willow riparian and oak woodlands, and grassland. Many plant and animal species call the reserve home, including more than 16 listed as sensitive, threatened or endangered species.
Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve consists of 8,300 acres and protects unique ecosystems like Engelmann oak woodlands, riparian wetlands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, bunchgrass prairie and vernal pools.
Of the more than 120 sensitive species of plants and animals in the Inland Empire, 59 of them can be found on the Santa Rosa Plateau. Red-legged frogs, California newts, and southwestern pond turtles survive in bedrock-lined pools of the stream system, much of which is under restoration. Native wildflowers, some nationally endangered, draw thousands of spring visitors. Vernal pools, the seasonal, shallow ponds which collect on rare volcanic soils, support endemic fairy shrimp and wintering waterfowl. Engelmann oaks, a vanishing, semi-deciduous species with blue-gray leaves and contorted branches, are found in abundance among the rolling grasslands. Badgers, horned lizards, mountain lions, bobcats, gray fox and deer are found on the Plateau, as are more than 180 species of birds.
The four landowners (the state, Riverside County, Metropolitan Water District, and The Nature Conservancy), and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (which owns no land on the Plateau, but has an interest in its rare and endangered species) signed a cooperative management agreement and today meet monthly to oversee management of the Reserve.
Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve is on the border between Riverside County and San Diego County between Temecula and Fallbrook. Established in 1962, the 4344-acre reserve encompasses a 5-mile reach of the Santa Margarita River, the longest protected coastal river in southern California and a variety of agricultural and upland habitats.