Conservancy Completes 5-Year Strategy Plan
The Escondido Creek Conservancy Strategic Plan Framework 2022-2026
Approved January 18th, 2022
After a year of meetings, including focus groups with stakeholders and hours spent pondering the future of conservation in North San Diego County, The Escondido Creek Conservancy has updated its strategic plan with a new framework to carry it into the next five years. The plan was approved by its Board of Directors on January 18, 2022. Read the plan below:
The planet is facing an extinction crisis. Scientists predict that more than one million species are on track for extinction in the coming decades.* San Diego County is an endangered biodiversity hotspot.** There is growing pressure on wild areas in North San Diego County from climate change, development, and other human activities.
Nature is important for human health. People need healthy natural areas to experience connection, respite, joy, and community. At the same time, sensitive ecosystems rely on people as stewards and protectors, which means some natural areas with no human intrusion and other areas where human uses are minimized. Residential development results in habitat fragmentation, which contributes to the decline of native plants and wildlife. While some key natural areas have been protected from development, unprotected special places remain threatened. Even some conserved areas are still at risk from overuse, climate change, and invasive species–as well as unknown future threats.
For the wildlife, plants, and people of North San Diego County to thrive into the future, we need to preserve critical areas to protect wildlife from extinction and protect other areas to keep common species common. We must make sure all people throughout our watershed have opportunities to learn about, connect with, and love these places. Regularly connecting kids to wild places is critical to making sure the next generation values nature and continues the vital work of protection, restoration, and care.
Many people enjoy recreation and time in nature, and in turn devote time, talent, and treasure to ensuring the future of wild and natural places. Their energy and generosity have helped protect and restore much that would have otherwise been lost over the last few decades.
Unfortunately, the conservation movement, of which we are a part, has historically excluded many people from both the benefits of connection to natural areas, and the opportunity to tend to these places as stewards and protectors. For example, in some urban areas of the Escondido Creek watershed, natural areas are hard to access; to control seasonal flooding, a six-mile stretch of the Escondido creek is hidden within concrete walls and fenced off from the public. This is but one of a variety of barriers—physical and otherwise—preventing people from enjoying nature and the many benefits it offers. Such lack of access is especially hard on kids—most of us discover our interdependence with nature through formative experiences as children, from climbing trees and splashing in creeks to catching lizards. Both research and instinct tell us that learning to love nature and the outdoors starts at a young age and is strengthened by repeated experiences. Yet there is a troubling trend that kids of this generation are spending less time in nature than ever before and are disconnected from it as a result. How can we expect them to appreciate what they have not experienced?
Our Mission, Vision, and Commitment
Our mission is to preserve and restore the Escondido Creek watershed. Our vision is, through the Conservancy’s leadership, the Escondido Creek watershed will become a model of vibrant and diverse communities, connected to our unique and thriving natural ecosystems.
In our ideal future:
- Important lands are protected, offering refuges and corridors where wildlife and native plants find everything they need to thrive—even as climate change alters the basic conditions of our ecosystems.
- Escondido Creek is vibrant, clean, and rich with native aquatic life.
- All people share in the health, benefits, and joy of nature. People who live in our watershed have a range of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors including the Escondido Creek, either in their own neighborhoods or within easy reach—or both.
- All public-school students in the Escondido Creek watershed, at every grade level (K-12), have equitable access to standards-aligned outdoor education programs.
- People understand and care for the Escondido Creek and preserved lands in North County, and generations of lifelong stewards throughout the state are inspired to preserve and protect the natural environment within and beyond the Escondido Creek watershed.
- Watershed residents have a sense of pride in their community and value the beauty and wonders of the Escondido Creek watershed.
To realize this vision, The Escondido Creek Conservancy works collaboratively with partners to:
- Protect important lands through a range of direct strategies, with a focus on supporting climate resilience, increasing native species, and providing connectivity among protected lands.
- Restore the Escondido Creek and important natural places within and near the watershed, ensuring healthy ecosystems and leverage partnerships to restore more accessible lands that ensure all communities in the watershed, urban and rural, have equitable access to nature.
- Nurture the next generation of environmental stewards by helping youth throughout the watershed experience and learn about nature, building their sense of empowerment to protect what they have come to love.
- Advocate for equitable, culturally relevant outdoor learning opportunities throughout California.
- Engage communities, especially underserved communities with limited or no access to nature, in our watershed in conversations about land, beginning by listening closely to understand community needs, then offering solutions that leverage our mission and strengths.
We do this work because we believe that:
- People take care of what they love, and love what they know.
- A healthy, flourishing Escondido Creek and North County is better for all who live here, both people and wildlife.
- Equitable access to nature and the outdoors should be a basic human right – essential for physical and mental wellbeing.
- Each of us has a role in taking care of the natural world.
Here are the values that the Conservancy strives to live by–our North Star:
- Collaboration. We build relationships throughout our community with individuals and organizations. We participate in partnerships and coalitions to achieve shared goals. We offer our strengths without imposing ourselves, leading where it makes sense for us to do so and supporting others in their leadership. Within our organization, we work across teams and departments.
- Responsibility. We stay true to what we say we are going to accomplish, within our team and with our partners. We are accountable to land trust standards, and we maintain high standards of environmental responsibility in our own operations, making sure our actions do not have negative downstream impacts. We build and rely on clear internal systems and structures to guide our work.
- Innovation and Dedication. We strive for excellence and are willing to try new approaches and combine strategies to achieve our goals. We are willing to take on challenges and find solutions to complex issues. Dedication and courage help us persevere to find solutions even in times of adversity.
- Compassion. We meet people where they are. We each strive to understand other people’s perspectives, even when we disagree, and we commit to civility as our framework for expression and discussion. We support our community to express what they need from us as we work towards our mission. We value people and their connection to the ecosystems around us, and help people understand how to be compassionate toward the natural world.
- Inclusion and equity. We recognize the significance of inclusion and equity, and we are actively working on it and continuing to learn. We are accountable for the ways in which the Conservancy may have unintentionally perpetuated inequities in our community. Going forward, our commitment to inclusion means we connect with the full diversity of people and communities throughout our watershed to seek input that informs our work. We find a place for new ideas and identify how we can respond, within our capacity. We invite everyone to join us through volunteer opportunities and program participation. We work to break down barriers to access that have historically limited participation by some community members. With some of our programs, we have been able to advocate for and facilitate equitable access to nature, environmental education, and empowering outdoors experiences for everyone. We know we have more work to do. We will produce a detailed inclusion policy; this policy will outline commitments to inclusion with our community and our internal operations.
GOAL 1. The lands that are most critical to the health of native plants and wildlife are protected and connected.
We will continue to protect ecologically important lands in our watershed. We will acquire lands for protection beyond our watershed when it benefits our watershed, or when land protection opportunities are consistent with our priorities of climate resilience and habitat connectivity to the Escondido Creek watershed.
GOAL 2. All residents of our watershed have opportunities to experience and benefit from nature.
We will provide a range of opportunities for people to get outdoors, experience nature, and connect with their creek, no matter where in the watershed they live.
GOAL 3. People in our region value nature and provide lifelong stewardship and advocacy for it.
People take care of what they love, and love what they know. That is why the Conservancy provides educational and recreational outdoor opportunities for youth and adults to experience nature and understand our work. We also bring nature-focused activities to youth and adults, including families, where they are. We will enhance and expand our efforts to bring nature to people and people to nature throughout our watershed and beyond – even throughout the state – inspiring more youth and adults to love and protect nature than we have ever reached before. We will ensure the Conservancy is welcoming and inclusive and that our programs encourage participants to nurture their own affinity for caring and stewardship of the Earth.
Support and Operations Goal
To achieve the impact goals described above, we will strengthen the Conservancy as follows:
GOAL 4. The Conservancy has the team, financial resources, and systems needed for mission success.
Recognizing our ambition to make a difference in the Escondido Creek watershed and beyond, we will build our human and financial capacity to get the results we seek. The implementation of this strategic plan is contingent on sufficient funding and staffing, with funding sources identified as programs are initiated.
*Center for Biological Diversity
**Institute for Conservation Research