Over the coming year, The Wildlands Conservancy will expand its preserve system into the vulnerable South Coast ecoregion of Southern California through acquisition of five miles along the Santa Margarita River, one of the last remaining wild, free-flowing rivers in Southern California. Through TWC’s stewardship, the 1,384-acre water-blessed property will be preserved within California’s fragile Coastal Sage Scrub and Chaparral sub-ecoregion, within what is recognized as one of Earth’s 25 hotspots of threatened biodiversity.

The Santa Margarita River Valley’s varied habitats are home to an extraordinary collection of native species: 500 plant, 236 bird, 52 mammal, 43 reptile, and 24 aquatic invertebrates species. Of these, 70 species are of special concern, including several federally endangered species, such as least Bell’s vireo, the western willow flycatcher, and the arroyo toad. This property provides vital habitat linkage between the Santa Ana Mountains and Inland San Diego County.

The Santa Margarita is not only an irreplaceable scenic and ecological treasure, it’s a recreational one, providing thousands of annual visitors endless opportunities to recreate and reconnect via a system of some 18 miles of well-maintained trails for passive recreation. Currently maintained by the volunteer-based Fallbrook Trails Council, with whom The Wildlands Conservancy will continue to partner, the trails along this stretch of the river valley were voted #1 out of San Diego County’s top 50 trails by San Diego Magazine in 2015.