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March 14, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – East El Capitan ridge, a habitat of the threatened California coastal gnatcatcher and home to a golden eagle nesting site, has been preserved and protected thanks to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and the United States Forest Service

Nearly 80 acres above El Capitan Reservoir on the Eastern slopes of El Cajon Mountain (referred to as East El Capitan) is being donated by SDG&E to the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Sunrise Powerlink Habitat Acquisition Plan, Habitat Management Plan and Scenery Mitigation Plan.  The East El Capitan donation preserves an “unspoiled mountain view”, a release issued by SDG&E states, adding that the location is an ideal habitat where threatened California coastal gnatcatchers may find a new home to spread their wings. The dusky gray bird seeks out insects in the dense coastal sage scrub that grows on the property along with native chaparral and coast live oak. Adjoining a golden eagle nesting site, the area also serves as a foraging ground for the birds of prey and supports a variety of sensitive plants. 

“We are pleased to have collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service to preserve much of the East El Capitan hillside property,” said Pam Fair, SDG&E vice president, environmental and operations support and chief environmental officer. "The area is essential to our land conservation efforts that will forever preserve critical ecosystems throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties and sustain our backcountry’s open spaces for future generations to enjoy." 

This is the second of more than 20 environmentally-significant properties inside the Cleveland National Forest and in other natural areas that SDG&E is donating to offset impacts on sensitive vegetation, listed species and scenery as set forth by the approved Sunrise Powerlink Habitat Acquisition Plan, Habitat Management Plan and Scenery Mitigation Plan. Ultimately, SDG&E will help preserve more than 11,000 acres – equal in size to more than nine Balboa Parks – having protected more than 10 times the space its transmission line construction physically disturbed. The project’s close to 500 acres of temporary impacts will be fully restored to pre-impact conditions. 

The Sunrise Powerlink project generated considerable controversy in the area, including objections from Lakeside residents due to towers marring pristine views of a dramatic rock face of El Cajon Mountain (El Capitan), El Capitan Reservoir and a County designated scenic view corridor in Lakeside’s El Monte Valley. 

SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego.  


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El Capitan / El Cajon Mountain donation

I am a San Diego native, born in La Mesa. I grew-up loving our backcountry, even becoming a wildland firefighter with CDF (CalFire).  I look forward to ANY positive information about 'my' El Cap'. It holds strong emotions, back to the 1960's when as a teenager I climbed it 8 times, 7 trips going straight up from the El Monte Valley near the park. Two of us, sometimes four. 'Back then', very few ventured 'up there' -- or were able to camp on the upper slopes, as we did, for days -- we rarely saw another soul. There was no well-worn trail as today, easily seeing over 50 hikers, and rock-climbing here was a very rare sight.

Many of those who ventured into the heavily overgrown, rocky terrain atop El Cajon Mountain became lost or injured;  and rescue then came much more slowly. We came across a group (8-10, as near as I recall) from the San Diego Sierra Club, who were "disoriented as to location" and low on water. One had a nasty gash from a falling rock. As teens we felt pretty important helping them find their way down, part of it in the dark. We were invited to their membership meeting in Balboa Park, and praised in front a crowd of members. There we were, everyday teenagers relating tales of past "explorations" of El Cap', and backcountry around the county.   

I"m now a retired Fire Captain living in nearby Orange County. I'm a member of the San Diego 'Take A Hike' Meetup group, and a contributor to the San Diego Riverpark Foundation. I direct my contributions towards El Cajon Mountain and the San Diego River above El Capitan Lake. I hope your readers will consider supporting with cash, SDRPF. They work with other agencies to preserve our remaining open land and habitat, for wildlife and humans alike. As our population grows, land becomes even more precious. We must save it now from future development.