2023: A Year in Review
2023 has been quite a year for the RCA and the MSHCP — a year marked by stronger collaboration with our state and federal partners. As we look ahead toward 2024 and the 20th anniversary of the MSHCP and RCA, we take this time to reflect on the past year’s achievements.
Funding played an integral part in 2023. Over the course of the year, RCA was awarded nearly $27 million in various state and federal grants from the California Wildlife Conservation Board and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire and protect more than 900 acres of sensitive habitat in western Riverside County. One such parcel of land, the 20-acre Barth property in Temecula, is located near other habitat reserve lands and serves as a critical linkage for MSHCP-covered species such as the mountain lion. Late in 2023, the RCA acquired the 240-arce Walker Canyon property in Lake Elsinore Walker Canyon. These lands are vital to the survival of endangered and threatened species protected by the MSHCP and important pieces of the larger, interconnected habitat reserve system the RCA is working towards in Western Riverside County.
Advocacy for increased federal funding for habitat conservation was a critical component of the RCA’s conservation efforts last year. In May, RCA Chair Natasha Johnson and Vice-Chair Kevin Bash visited Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of habitat conservation plans in western Riverside County with Congressional offices and federal agencies. The trip to the nation’s Capital also provided an opportunity to remind the federal government of its conservation obligation to the MSHCP.
But let us not forget the reason for the existence of the RCA and the MSHCP – the 146 native plant and animal species covered by the MSHCP. Throughout 2023, numerous cuddly (and not-so-cuddly) species residing within western Riverside County were spotlighted to our residents. The cute and ferocious long-tailed weasel stole readers’ hearts, while the resilient coast range newt inspired their imagination.
With 2024 underway, over 415,000 acres of habitat have been assembled as part of the MSHCP. Ultimately, the goal of the MSCHP, which began in 2004, is to assemble a 500,000-acre habitat reserve, provide resilience to the effects of a changing climate, protect biodiversity, and provide equitable access to open space across western Riverside County.
The RCA’s New Year’s Resolution remains the same for 2024 – conservation through careful and deliberate land acquisition. Thank you to all the RCA partner agencies, cities and permittees, and supporters who make this possible.