EHL helped convene a landowner, scientists, and the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority on a plan to protect the California gnatcatcher and the quino checkerspot butterfly in the French Valley.

The heart of the French Valley core area, located near of Murietta, is Warm Springs Ranch, 960 acres of rare low elevation coastal sage scrub and grasslands. It is owned by the Anheuser Busch Co., which keeps its famous Clydesdale horses there. Reaching a solution for the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) in the valley is challenging due to prior loss of habitat to development, extremely high land costs, and the fixed needs of the threatened gnatcatcher and endangered quino checkerspot.

Following a collaborative dialogue, a creative land exchange involving highly degraded property owned by the County of Riverside has been proposed to secure the great majority of Warm Springs Ranch, with housing development only in the least sensitive portion. The process included UC Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology and local species experts brought in by EHL. Other French Valley parcels are targeted for acquisition.

EHL will continue to participate in and monitor this promising project.