In early 2016, EHL's sister land trust – the Endangered Habitats Conservancy – purchased 244 acres in southern San Diego County to help save the Hermes copper butterfly. This unique landscape, located east of the community of Jamul, also provides important connectivity between a number of existing ecological preserves, including Hollenbeck Canyon, the Sycuan Peak Ecological Reserve, and the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.
The Hermes copper survives in limited locations in San Diego County and northern Baja California and requires the spiny redberry as a host plant for reproduction. In response to litigation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service designated it as a “candidate” for listing. Even though the butterfly’s chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitat has been decimated by catastrophic wildfires, particularly in 2003, the lands we acquired did not burn.
The Jamul property is first phase of a conceptual new core reserve area of over 1,000 acres. The envisioned reserve lands also contain a number of rare and important native plant species, including Dehesa beargrass (Nolina interrata).
The property was purchased at fair market value using $1.6 million of grant funds from the California Wildlife Conservation Board and the San Diego Association of Governments’ Transnet Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP). The Transnet EMP has been a long-time focal point of EHL's advocacy for conservation in the San Diego region. EHL would like to extend its thanks to these funding partners for helping our land conservancy to launch the first phase of this new reserve complex.
Going forward, EHC will focus on expanding the envisioned reserve. At the same time, a robust monitoring program will be launched for the Hermes copper butterflies present on the property. Future work will also include exploring the translocation of Hermes copper butterflies to enhance the resiliency of the remaining species populations.