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Hidden Valley: 1,905 Acres Preserved in East County

Jack Dale calls it the "crown jewel" of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, an 11,000-acre block of habitat recognized for its rich and unique biodiversity.

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SANDAG and other organization announced Wednesday the purchase of Hidden Valley, a 1,905-acre property in East San Diego County for open space preservation and the protection of endangered and threatened species, including the and .

, SANDAG First Vice Chair and , attended the onsite announcement of the acquisition on July 11.

“The sheer size and strategic location of the Hidden Valley property makes it another crown jewel in our TransNet Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP),” Dale said.

“Since starting the program in 2008, less than five years ago, SANDAG has preserved more than 3,300 acres of open space and valuable habitat in the San Diego region.”

The newly-acquired land is now part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, an 11,000-acre-plus block of habitat long recognized for its rich and unique biodiversity. The Hidden Valley site fills in the missing links between the National Wildlife Refuge managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve managed by the California Department of Fish and Game.

“Conserving lands like Hidden Valley not only provides the space that plants and animals need to thrive, but also guarantees citizens and the generations to follow that they will have these places to connect with nature and enjoy the benefits it provides,” Pulling said.

Through the TransNet EMP, SANDAG contributed $10 million toward the $18 million purchase price for the property. The Department of the Interior, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, paid the balance. The Nature Conservancy negotiated the reduced “bargain sale” purchase price, which was $2 million lower than the market value estimate of $20 million as determined in an appraisal obtained by the Conservancy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Escrow for the sale by Hidden Valley Development, LLC, closed at the end of June.

TransNet – a regional half-cent sales tax for transportation approved by taxpayers countywide – sets aside $850 million over a 40-year period to buy, conserve, and restore native habitat as offsets to disturbances caused by transportation projects. The Hidden Valley acquisition helps SANDAG and Caltrans meet environmental mitigation requirements for scores of regional transportation improvements planned countywide

Situated on the northeast flank of Mount San Miguel, the Hidden Valley property is at the heart of the Otay-Sweetwater Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, considered the largest block of intact habitat in coastal San Diego County. The newly-acquired land combines with thousands of acres of open space nearby to create continuous wildlife corridors critical to the survival of endangered and threatened species.

More than $150 million has been invested in and around the National Wildlife Refuge in support of the Multiple Species Conservation Program.

-A SANDAG press release contributed to this report

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