Volunteers plant coastal sage scrub at Santa Carina site

Restoring natural characteristics of a Southern California wetland.

Habitat Restoration in San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Beyond

The reserve encompasses a variety of habitats. One thing they all have in common is that they have been impacted in some way by our surrounding communities. Early European settlers farmed the floodplains and terraces, and more modern inhabitants erected roads, trains, and bridges. San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy works to mitigate the impacts of our built environment by restoring native habitat in numerous reserve locations. Below are some general descriptions of our restoration efforts, with links to more specific information.

Community Habitat Restoration Lagoon Platoon

Conservancy biologists train volunteers in habitat restoration techniques, and then work together to remove invasive and non-native, plant natives and install protective fencing to protect sensite habitats. For more information about how you can get involved, please visit our Community Habitat Restoration Lagoon Platoon site.

Restoration Overview

The San Elijo Lagoon Restoration project is designed to be resilient with sea level rise in our changing climate. Reviving our wetlands means improving tidal circulation in the lagoon. Lands and waters will be enhanced for native plants and animals—including threatened and endangered species. Our access and education opportunities will expand as we continue to protect sensitive natural resources. 
San Elijo Lagoon Restoration—Reviving Your Wetlands—is part of the first phase of construction for the North Coast Corridor Program, known as Build NCC. 


Ford Wildlife Habitat Preserve Restoration Site
This site has been used for a variety of uses in the past including cattle grazing. More recently non-native acacia and eucalyptus trees that offer minimal habitat to native animals have grown extensively. The conservancy initiated a riparian restoration project in the Escondido Creek floodplain in September 2012. Conservancy biologists with oversee the removal of non-native plant species in the Ford Wildlife Habitat Preserve, which is just upstream of San Elijo Lagoon. This 33-acre preserve (no public access) provides important habit for Great Horned Owls, coyotes, mule deer, and endangered birds, such as Least Bell's Vireo. These animals depend on native riparian vegetation to survive and thrive. Great communities and healthy lagoons depend upon unrestricted waterflow. Most of the watershed drains along Escondido Creek through this property.


Adjacent to Coast Highway 101 
A separate, but interconnected habit restoration project is focused in the four-acre coastal dunes site of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. This extremely rare ecosystem is all but nonexistent in Southern California. Public access is restricted because the dunes host sensitive and endangered plant and animal species, such as the Western Snowy Plover, silvery legless lizard, and California Least Tern, among others. For more information, read more about the project here.


Santa Carina and Stonebridge Habitat Restoration Sites
These sites were used by Native Americans to process seafood easily acquired from nearby coastal areas. European settlers transformed them to dry-land farming sites, growing olives and lima beans. The result are areas covered in non-native grasses that do not offer structural habitat important to native avian species. Beginning in 2011, the conservancy has been controlling the spread of invasive grasses and shrubs at the upland habitats of Santa Carina and Stonebridge areas, and revegetating with native plants. The goal at these sites is the reestablishment of high-quality habitat for native wildlife such as California Gnatcatcher and Thrasher.




Reviving Your Wetlands - San Elijo Lagoon Restoration

Freshwater Riparian Restoration
Ford Wildlife Habitat Preserve

Coastal Dunes Restoration
Adjacent to Coast Highway 101

Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration
(Page under review)

Community Habitat Restoration Lagoon Platoon
Volunteer Opportunities


Bradley Nussbaum, Habitat Management Director
bradley [at] sanelijo [dot] org
(760) 436-3944 x 700


 Southern mule deer