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Native Species

Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard
Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard. Photo by Michele Felix-Derbarmdiker

Southern California may invoke images of urbanization, but it is actually a treasure box of habitats and micro-climates. This diversity allows for a cornucopia of native species to exist in even the most developed pockets of landscape. Native species are organisms that exist in an area for natural reasons such as evolution. They have evolved with that particular environment and have a set of adaptations specific to survival in that ecosystem. There are two types of native species: indigenous and endemic. Indigenous species are found naturally in multiple places as where endemic species are found in one specific area only. For example, the Virginia Opossum is naturally found in many California habitats but it can also be found throughout most of North America, therefore it is an indigenous species. In contrast, the Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard is only found in specific sand dunes in the desert region of Riverside County, this is an endemic species. Indigenous wildlife tends to be more robust and resilient to changes to their habitat. Endemic species tend to be more fragile because of their specific habitat requirements and adaptations. Even slight changes in their environment can have devastating consequences. Whether a native species is endemic or indigenous, their resource requirements must be taken into consideration as Southern California continues to expand and demand more of our natural resources.

Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)

The Western Riverside County Multi Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) is a unified plan that guides development and provides for economic growth while protecting local habitats for native plants and animals. In the 1980s-1990s a growing number of endangered species was slowing urbanization. Through a lengthy stakeholder process and environmental evaluation, a comprehensive approach was developed to protect our unique landscapes and wildlife while expediting development. The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) was created to steward the Plan, or MSHCP. The RCRCD was part of the process that developed the plan, and the monitoring biologists for the MSHCP are housed in building C at the RCD’s headquarters: the Resource Conservation Center. The RCRCD conducts habitat conservation projects that support and complement the Plan and staff work with RCA in the sharing of information.