To inspire appreciation and foster awareness, we must be able to articulate the importance of our canyons and natural ecosystems. They provide:
1) Passive Recreation
Passive recreational values, including hiking, jogging, dog walking, and bird/wildlife watching, should be preserved and enhanced where appropriate. Some canyons, that are particularly important for species conservation, should be preserved for wildlife observation/study and human impacts should be minimized/reduced. Access improvements that increase human activity, while desirable in many canyons, should strive to protect the natural resource values.
2) Visual, Psychological & Physical Relief
San Diego’s Canyons are an escape to nature from an otherwise completely paved and urbanized environment. Citizens and visitors appreciate viewing San Diego’s natural landform, habitats and wildlife. This visual treat helps sooth the mind and relieves the stress of modern living with its fast pace and information overload. Singing birds, buzzing bees and the cry of soaring hawks replaces the noise of traffic. The aroma of Sagebrush, twittering birds, flowering plants, butterflies, and wildlife welcome the senses and curious eyes of urban dwellers. The natural aesthetics of the canyons should be preserved and enhanced.
3) Educational Opportunities: Nature Classroom, Wildlife and Watershed studies
In his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder” (2005) author Richard Louv pulls together a host of studies and information that show our children learn better in a natural, outdoor setting than within the walls of the traditional classroom. One national study of environment-based education that Louv points to was conducted by the State Education and Environmental Roundtable. Louv wrote: “The Roundtable worked with 150 schools in 16 states for ten years, identifying model environment-based programs and examining how the students fared on standardized tests. The findings indicate that an environment-based education produces student gains in social studies, science, language arts and math; improves standardized test scores and grade point averages; and develops skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision making.” (Report entitled “Closing the Achievement Gap”, 2002). Like San Diego’s schools, the canyons are scattered throughout the city, providing nearby opportunities for schools to establish a nature-classroom program. There is so much for our urban youth to learn from the canyons themselves including: human and natural history, biology and the study of our many endangered and threatened species, archaeology/paleontology, geology and the emerging science of watershed management. The canyons are a classroom for water quality monitoring and testing and solution-oriented study. Schools could establish native plant gardens to assist with canyon restoration projects.
4) Species/Wildlife Conservation
Our county has more endangered and threatened species than any other county on the continental USA. Many of our endangered habitats, on which many species depend for survival, are found in the canyons such as the riparian woodlands (wetlands) that follow the streams through our canyons. San Diego’s adopted Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) calls for protection of wetlands both inside and outside of preserve areas. Some canyons serve as important wildlife corridors for habitat area connectivity, and others are important stop-over locations for mobile and migrating species. The wildlife values of our canyons should be preserved and enhanced.
5) Water Quality Benefits
Our polluted urban runoff is a growing problem with several days of beach closures after every rain. Native canyon vegetation, with its deep roots, can absorb, filter and breakdown pollutants from urban storm-water runoff, cleaning the water before it gets to our beaches. This natural capability should be protected and restored. Urban storm-water runoff that is being funneled into canyons from our streets is increasing the erosion of the streams and canyon slopes and thus increasing sedimentation pollution to our coastal waters. Urban redevelopment should seek innovative ways to reduce the flow of runoff into the canyons.