Conservation Priorities

Conservation Committee Priorities


The Conservation Committee meets on the 2nd Monday of each month at 6;30pm in the Chapter office.  All members are welcome to attend.  For more information contact George Courser, Conservation Chair, here.

The Conservation Committee maintains liaisons with government agencies and non-government organizations in San Diego and Imperial counties in order to advocate for wildlife, parks, planned and affordable housing, and zero waste. We work to decrease green house gas (GHG) emissions, vehicular miles travelled (VMT) and urban sprawl. We strive to preserve clean air, water and a sustainable climate for ourselves and future generations to explore, enjoy and protect.

We challenge building in the pathway of wildfires. We contest building communities distant from evacuation corridors and public transport. We encourage projects that are publicly vetted, that various Requests For Proposals (RFP) are considered, and that proper investigation is conducted in order to keep people and nature out of harm’s way.

Sierra Club supports, opposes or takes no position on issues only after expert advice and careful study of environmental laws, such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Climate Action Plan (CAP), The Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), and federal, state and local laws and regulatory agencies, such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Coastal Commission (CCC).

The Conservation Committee discusses plans and actions on these issues every second Monday of the month. Some members attend to tackle environmental problems in their community. Others come to learn, help and attend public government meetings. Others collaborate with Subcommittees to develop solutions. We have a Forestry Subcommittee focused on stewardship of the Cleveland National Forest and  Cuyamaca State Park. A Water Conservation Subcommittee is studying how to increase usage of grey water and rain barrel systems.  Our Zero waste subcommittee is working hard to educate everyone on the need to reduce expendable products and our Transportation Subcommittee is playing a key role in our regions transportation planning.  The Seal Society recently achieved a major victory at the California Coastal Commission in protecting the harbor seal in La Jolla.

Why These Priorities Are Important to Us


Hummingbird Moth.  Photo by Cynthia Wootton.

Bats, Birds, bees, and butterflies pollinate our foods. Tadpoles, feed on algae, which filter and clean our water. Frogs, salamanders, birds, dragonflies eat ticks, mosquitoes, Arthropods and other bugs harmful to humans. They are a natural form of pest control. Earthworms enhance our soil like a “tractor, fertilizer factory and dam, combined!”

There is a vital balance between habitats of flora and fauna and human survival. Each species of plant, animal, and microorganism, no matter how small have a critical role in healthy and thriving ecosystems. The biodiversity that establishes itself, in turn boosts the ecosystem. Diversity in species and their genes strengthens their adaptability to adversity and disaster. Biodiverse ecosystems generate soils formation, nutrient and carbon storage, water and air purification, food and climate stability.

The larger the area covered by biodiverse ecosystems, the stronger the gene pool. The larger the number of species protected within these ecosystems, the more sustainable it will be in helping human survival.

The Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), Open Space, and Parks

Deer wandering out from Palomar Mountain State Park.  Photo by Cynthia Wootton

Together with many different groups, the city and county developed a plan for preserving land and parks known as The Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP). San Diego, is one of the nation’s most biologically diverse counties. There are approximately 200 threatened or endangered species. Officially, the MSCP protects this biodiversity and enhances our quality of life.

In open spaces, we preserve ecosystems and chaparral which sequester as much carbon as forests. In parks, we support the health of our communities. 

We team up with many of the projects of companies and labor, but not ones that harm these areas. Petitioners try to convert these lands often because they are a cheaper alternative to purchasing other land.

Pollution and Destruction
Developments near watersheds cause run off from pesticides. Also, poisons are used to kill the natural wildlife.

More people bring more power lines and accidents that cause most fires, (embers from parties, smokers, appliances, old fences and decks, especially during Santa Anna wind storms). Fires destroy ecosystems that sequester carbon and pollute the air. They cause immediate disaster to the economy, personal finances and human health.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

Photo by Cynthia Wootton

CEQA ensures that multiple species and endangered ones can thrive. Generally, CEQA requires that state and local government agencies must inform decision makers and the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects. It seeks to reduce those impacts.



Water, Watersheds, Wetlands and Vernal Pools

Photo by Cynthia Wootton

Water is a major issue in San Diego. Climate disruption is shrinking snowpacks, lengthening droughts, and drying groundwater. We need to preserve all our natural water collection sites, which store and release water into the earth, fill up our groundwater, where concrete and other surfaces can’t. Watersheds, wetlands and vernal pools collect precipitation and preserve biodiversity, endangered species and riparian zones that help filter pollutants, anchor soil and absorb water, and minimize the severity of floods and landslides. They provide habitat for birds, plants, animals, and fish. They offer cleaner air and water for the enjoyment of people who run, walk, bike, birdwatch, and participate in educational activities.

San Diego “County is home to 11 westward draining watersheds,” including Los Penasquitos, Mission Bay-La Jolla, San Diego River, and San Diego Bay. They join with networks of creeks, such as Chollas Creek, Famosa Slough, and Rose Creek and they terminate as wetlands.
Conservationists strive to preserve these areas and, where possible, we support habitat restoration, such as REWILD Mission Bay.

Since we plan for sustainability and health over the long term, we support The City of San Diego’s Potable Water Reuse (PureWater) Project as well as use of recycled grey water and rain barrell capture.

Vernal Pools
Vernal pools are “hotpots of biodiversity” for “a large number of rare, endangered species, and endemic species.” They are seasonal wetlands that harbor “flora and fauna that, in some cases, aren’t found anywhere else on the planet.” Certain amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders “return each year to breed in the same pond where they were born, bypassing other suitable pools and navigating man-made obstacles like roads, construction sites, and golf courses.”

City, county, state and federal laws officially protect these areas. “Despite this fact, about 90% of vernal pool ecosystems in California have been destroyed,” primarily due to careless development. Countless rare species were destroyed forever.

Zero Waste and Recycling

Photo by Cynthia Wootton

Other countries no longer recycle for us. The City of San Diego hands recycling over to third party haulers. The Conservation group’s Zero waste Subcommittee is examining the pathways to help City’s Zero Waste ordinance and implementation plan. They examine ways to shrink landfills and to implement newly emerging recycling technologies.





San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP)

Photo by Cynthia Wootton

Our efforts throughout the county help to support our CAP. It’s targets are determined by California’s Climate Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as measured against to 1990 levels:
          • Reduce to 1990 levels by 2020 (AB32)
          • 40% reduction by 2030 (SB32)
          • 80% reduction by 2050 (Executive Order S-3-05)

The San Diego Climate Action Plan (CAP) binds the city to cutting its carbon emissions in half by 2035.  Key strategies to achieve this include:
          • 100% Clean Energy, achieved through Community Choice Energy
          • Commuter mode share traveling by biking, walking, public transit and Zero Emission Vehicles
          • Municipal fleet conversion to Zero Emission Vehicles
          • Dense infill development and affordable housing near jobs and transit
          • Zero Waste by a specified date
          • Increased tree canopy with drought-tolerant species
          • Water capture and recycled water projects.
Some examples of achieving this would be to increase and preserve parks and open space, preserve wetlands, plan paths for bicycles, walkways, Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) and other transit options that reduce green house gases.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) (CCA)

Photo by Cynthia Wootton

Sierra Club supports establishing CCEs and JPAs (Joint Powers Authority) throughout San Diego County, providing an alternative to SDG&E’s total control.

In February 2019, the San Diego City Council voted to establish a CCE.

SDG&E equipment still delivers the energy to homes, manages the grid and performs the billing services, it’s just the purchasing branch that’s different. Implementations of CCEs in other California cities and other states prove that it works and saves money as do all the extensive feasibility studies.

Here’s how it works. A city or community forms a non profit CCE that hires a knowledgeable purchasing team to purchase its energy instead of paying for purchases by SDG&E.

Once San Diego voted for it, other cities in the county wanted to join in. When a group of cities joins together to create a CCE, they form a non profit Joint Powers Authority, or JPA. The determination about which cities want to be involved is ongoing. The larger the group served, the better the purchasing power.

CCEs and JPAs create strong clean energy policies that are essential to reversing climate change. They save families money, reduce GHG emissions, accelerate clean energy, create local jobs and result in profits that can be reinvested back into the community.








SANDAG Meetings. Photos by Cynthia Wootton

In California, almost 40% of greenhouse gases come from transportation.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) recently announced a program of 5 BIG MOVES to reduce greenhouse gases and meet our climate action plan.

The Conservation group’s Transportation Subcommittee supports these, and is working with cities and the county to make plans that work for them.

SANDAG’s 5 BIG MOVES are as follows:
–“Complete Corridors” improves connections between densely travelled areas.
–“Transit Leap” are high-capacity, high-speed, and high-frequency transit services.
–“Mobility Hubs” are centers providing travel options after taking public transit.
–“Flexible Fleets” are on-demand, shared, electric vehicles to take people to personalized destinations.
–“Next OS” is the Next Operating System which integrates all the above strategies “together by connecting users, transportation service providers, and infrastructure.”

Seal Society

Photo by Roxy

The Conservation group’s Seal Society preserves the habitat, life cycle and survival needs of the harbor seals at Casa Beach, also known as Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla. This is an important rookery for harbor seals where “120,000 monthly visitors” watch them “resting, mothers birthing, pups nursing, males splashing the water with their flippers, and couples swimming together in their mating ritual.” Docents offer educational programs as well as opportunities to train more docents. Over a million visitors come from all over the world to see seals in a safe viewing environment. Although there are federal, state, and local ordinances that prohibit harassment of these animals, the Seal Society has been instrumental in reducing their harassment, which risk stillborn and pup abandonment. Here at Casa, humans and wildlife coexist.
Like the Seal Society Facebook page here