A long-awaited plan to enhance wildlife values on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is on the right track.

Established in 1996, the 11,537-acre San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is the cornerstone of the Multiple Species Conservation Program, or MSCP. Located roughly east of Chula Vista, it is one the largest remaining blocks of our historic coastal sage scrub ecosystem. Its paramount management objective is to meet MSCP species and habitat obligations. And with nesting golden eagles and 14 federally listed species, it is a beautiful and nationally significant treasure.

But it is also fragile. With adjacent urbanization, there are great demands to over-use it. Equestrians and mountain bikers have cut many unauthorized trails in the Refuge that damage sensitive areas. A strong management plan is needed that foremost protects wildlife but also allows people to enjoy the Refuge in a compatible manner.

The draft “Comprehensive Conservation Plan” is on the right track. The Preferred Alternative has many excellent components, including restoration, species reintroduction, and monitoring. It also would put in place a consolidated system of designated trails that balances recreational needs. However, EHL commented that hunting and dogs should continue to be prohibited on the Refuge, and that stronger provisions were needed to respond to the threat of highly invasive feral pigs.