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02/25/20

Work of a County Conservationist

San Diego is a biodiversity hotspot. In fact, 85 species are covered under the South County Subarea Plan of the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP). The North County Plan is drafted, and the East County Plan is proposed – but each will list their own set of species and habitats that DPR can, and should, protect.

The goal of the MSCP is to protect plant and animal species and their associated habitats while allowing development to occur in less sensitive areas. DPR’s Resource Management Division (RMD) is at the forefront of this mission; tasked with preparing Resource Management Plans (RMPs) – a requirement of the MSCP – for all of the parks and preserves we own and manage.

This entails working with consultants to perform biological and cultural resource inventory surveys – then analyzing that data, and making recommendations regarding the maintenance, monitoring and management of the land and on-site resources via RMPs.

Jennifer Price and Bethany Principe are our in-house conservationists, and the description above outlines what they do on a daily basis. But they’re quick to share that it’s much more than that…

“We are focused on protecting and monitoring, but we’re often pulled into other work tasks like environmental analysis reports, right of entry permits and general contract management,” said Jennifer Price, Land Use & Environmental Planner III.

She says they’re also always on the lookout for new land that offers quality habitat and that can link or expand wildlife corridors within the MSCP.

Beth Principe, Land Use & Environmental Planner II, added: “I love visiting properties we’re planning to buy to see if they include chaparral-covered, granite boulder-laden hills – or to find out what other plants, animals and cultural resources are on site. I like knowing I can be a part of their preservation, and that I can also help shape future land management.”

The RMPs these women produce prove extremely useful because within them are action plans that dictate how, when, and where various duties should be carried out, along with who is responsible for those actions.

Their work touches all facets of the department. For example, they work with Development to ensure trails and other recreational amenities don’t trample sensitive resources. They work with Operations to gauge the health of the habitats in their parks/preserves, monitoring plants and animals and completing projects to remove invasive plant species. Projects involving habitat restoration may require grant or supplemental funds, so they work closely with Finance. And at some point, everything they do (that’s public-facing) crosses the desks of the Marketing team.

Outside the department, they work with the County’s Land Use and Environmental Group and other departments, wildlife agencies and local landowners – in addition to contracted support.

A consideration that may not seem obvious is the possibility of wildfires. Jennifer and Beth look at wind patterns and projected fire travel through DPR properties. This information may influence placement of fuel modification zones and the vegetation management requirements of an RMP. It could even prioritize funding.

“It’s all about sustaining biological resources. We use the information we gather to devise strategies to conserve precious habitat and to restore native environments,” said Jennifer.

  • Jennifer Price MSCP
    Though she’s been with the County for 14 years, Jennifer began her career in resource management with California Department of Fish and Game, and then U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, before venturing into private environmental consulting where she sharpened her skills in California’s regulations, policies, and procedures.
  • Beth Principe
    Before joining DPR in 2017, Beth worked at a small Resource Conservation District in Fallbrook for 14 years, educating people about water quality issues, energy conservation, sustainability, and how to efficiently manage resources on their private properties.
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