Support The San Diego County Rural Heritage & Watershed Initiative

Toward harmony of livable cities and sustainable back country

by Allison Rolfe

 Click here for the full text of the Initiative

fter many, long years working toward the preservation of San Diego County's magnificent back country, Save Our Forests & Ranchlands (SOFAR) is pleased to announce that the Rural Heritage & Watershed Initiative has been filed, to begin the process of collecting signatures required for placement on the November, 1998 ballot.

Just as SOFAR offered the citizens of San Diego the opportunity to protect the Cleveland National Forest in 1993 (via the successful Forest Conservation Initiative), SOFAR is now presenting an opportunity to protect San Diego's remaining back country via this initiative.


Preventing sprawl

It's the water

Water is the most precious and essential resource in our semi-arid home. Industry can't function and we can't live here without a secure and clean source of drinking water. The backcountry is a vast wilderness watershed that provides free drinking water to our reservoirs, saving millions of dollars a year that otherwise would have to be paid for imported water. Development of the backcountry destroys the natural flora that keeps water clean as it runs into rivers and streams. More concrete and asphalt in the backcountry means more polluted water flowing into our reservoirs and ultimately, our beaches.

The history of San Diego County is synonymous with ranching, agriculture and a rural way of life rooted in our mountains, foothills, deserts and valleys. The wilderness of oak woodlands, pine-covered slopes, alpine meadows and sweeping Savannah is an integral part of that heritage. San Diego County's past lives on today in the back country. But will it be there for the next generation? Anyone who has lived here ten years ago - or even five - and has watched haphazard urban growth begin to overtake places like Alpine and Ramona should be worried. San Diego County is on the brink of becoming another Los Angeles or Orange County, a destiny we must avoid.

Poised on the threshold of the new millennium, San Diego County's remaining wild lands, agricultural lands and watershed are threatened by the same menace as its cities: urban sprawl. Finite tax dollars that are needed to replace decaying infrastructure within urban areas are being used, instead, to subsidize new infrastructure for inappropriately-located developments that are destroying our rural back country.

The Rural Heritage & Watershed Initiative solves the problem of urban sprawl by effectively creating an urban/rural boundary, as is called for in the County General Plan. On one side of the boundary, misplaced urban zoning in the back country would be replaced, by the Initiative, with proper rural zoning that prevents costly, inappropriate development. On the other side of the boundary, scarce tax dollars can be redirected to rebuilding and improving our urban areas.


Zoning for sustainability

Tourism, too

Tourism is one of our country's biggest industries, pumping billions of dollars into the local economy and employing tens of thousands of people. More and more people in the hospitality industry are recognizing the money-making potential of ecotourism in our county. But it's not just our beautiful beaches that draw people from around the world: our mountains, deserts and valleys, and the wildlife, forests and rural living that thrive there are equally attractive.

World renowned biologists agree that a fully viable wilderness will not survive as disconnected islands amid a sea of development. Our backcountry wilderness is unique because of its abundant diversity of plants and animals, many of which exist only here. This wilderness, once destroyed, can never be replaced. Continued unrestrained development of the backcountry will destroy the rural habitat that constitutes the last of our wilderness.

Agricultural, watershed and wilderness lands outside of the County Water Authority line, in the 18, 19, and 20 Use Designator lands lying in the area called Rural Development (RDA) in the County General Plan, would be zoned for 40-acre minimum parcel size. The 18, 19 and 20 Designator lands lying in the area called Environmentally Constrained (ECA) would be zoned for 80-acre minimum parcel size. Existing parcels in both areas would have no other constraints on their use.

The simple and elegant approach of the Initiative, creating a clear boundary between our rural and urban areas, will protect the watershed, agricultural, wildlife and scenic values of our San Diego County back country. At the same time, it will allow our urban areas to be revitalized as magnets for the continuing growth of our population.

The Initiative is based on the understanding that the healthy flow of pure water from our mountain watersheds to our reservoirs, beaches, and ocean is the binding element that links our rural and urban areas. Protecting the watershed will enhance the quality of life for citizens and visitors of both our cities and back country. It will benefit two of our largest industries: tourism and agriculture. The urban areas will remain business, industrial and residential centers; the rural areas will continue, as they ought, to be watershed, agricultural, wilderness and "spiritual renewal" centers. The Initiative will create a harmony flowing between our livable cities and our sustainable back country.

The choice is not if San Diego will grow; the choice is how San Diego will grow. The Rural Heritage & Watershed Initiative gives the people of San Diego County an unparalleled opportunity to plan for our own future, to shape the environment our children will inherit, and to set an example for every growing urban area. The choice is ours.


What you can do


The critical process of signature-gathering is beginning, and your help is needed in every way. SOFAR has rented office space at 8380 Hercules Street, Suite N, in La Mesa. If you can help with fund-raising, signature-gathering, phoning, typing, graphics work, events-planning, speaking or office work, please let us know.

Please call (619) 515-4411 to receive copies of petitions or to help in any way. Send contributions to: P.O. Box 1298, La Mesa, CA 91944.