By Tommy Hough
By virtue of our region's location in the southwestern corner of the United States, it shouldn't be any surprise that the latitude and altitude of San Diego County – from sea level to over 6,500 ft. – offers up the most biologically rich, biodiverse county in the lower 48 states. Thousands of species of plants, birds, trees, mammals and a host of wildlife ecosystems call San Diego County home.
While lacking the overall botanic diversity of, say, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument – which straddles the high grasslands and forest of the California/Oregon border – as a distinct area of California defined by political boundaries, the volume of biodiversity within the borders of San Diego County remains staggering.
We have wild areas protected as state parks and as part of the Cleveland National Forest, including designated wilderness in the chaparral wonderland south of Pine Valley, along the northern shoulders of Palomar Mountain, in the vast stretches of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and areas that have remained somewhat wild by virtue of a lack of development, like the Otay Range (managed by the BLM), Camp Pendleton, the broad mesa area south of MCAS Miramar and even privately-held parcels like Rancho Guejito near Valley Center.
An important stop for birds along the Pacific flyway, San Diego County is also one of the nation's busiest agricultural centers, and many of our parks, communities and open spaces have the unusual distinction of lying along an international border – a scenario which creates its own problems, and opportunities. We have deserts, rugged foothills, carved sandstone canyons, forested ridges – including three major mountain ranges – and a coastline along our county's entire western edge.
With that coastline comes our most immediate environmental responsibility. Along the edge of the continent, we're the last line of defense before plastic debris and other trash – which drains down to sea level through our rivers, creeks and concrete viaducts – winds up as litter, trash or poisonous microbes on our beaches. The next stop from there, of course, is the ocean.
Many of the global environmental issues and dilemmas we talk about and discuss every day pass right through San Diego County in some form or another. What we need to be clear on is the time to be a part of those solutions is right now. There is no opportunity for a "do over." From rising sea levels to drought to increased risks for wildfire we're a national bellwether on the effects of climate change.
As a member of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, I hope you'll continue to take into account the larger picture of the county's environmental challenges, and how our cities and communities can play a positive role in addressing those challenges – and set an example for the state and the nation to follow.
Tommy Hough is president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.
photos by Tommy Hough
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