Habitat Conservation Definitions

    Endangered Species Acts

    The Federal and State Endangered Species Acts establish protections for fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered to conserve and protect species at risk of extinction and conserve and protect the ecosystems upon which they depend. This includes species already listed as threatened or endangered, and those in decline that might become listed in the future.


    “Take” generally means to harm, harass, or kill a species and can include removing habitat under both the Federal and California Endangered Species Acts.

    Incidental Take Permit

    For potential impacts to threatened or endangered species, projects are required by the Federal and State Endangered Species Acts to obtain an incidental take permit to mitigate for potential impacts to listed species’ habitat. As a joint HCP/NCCP, the MSCP provides the basis for the County to receive an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), collectively referred to as the Wildlife Agencies. The incidental take permit the County receives through the MSCP can be extended to future development projects that comply with the MSCP so that those projects do not have to secure their own separate incidental take permits from the Wildlife Agencies. Through this permitting mechanism, the MSCP helps streamline permitting, provide regional conservation of natural habitats, and facilitate economic growth in San Diego County. 

    Plan Area

    The geographic boundary that defines the extent of the analysis for the development of the North County Plan. Factors, such as watershed boundaries, baseline preserve lands, parcel and ownership boundaries, connectivity, as well as vegetation and sensitive species distribution, were considered to develop the current draft Plan Area. This area does not include those lands that won’t be directly part of the North County Plan, labeled as Not-A-Part, but create opportunities to link regional conservation efforts.

    Permit Area

    The area in which the North County Plan will be applicable, including lands with existing or potential future activities that will need “take” coverage.

    Priority Conservation Area (PCA)

    The area in which mitigation and conservation is anticipated to occur, although this entire area is not anticipated to be preserved throughout the implementation of the North County Plan. These areas were identified as having the highest biological value and the best areas to assemble a habitat preserve based on modeling that was reviewed by independent science advisors. While development is not restricted within the PCA, the North County Plan will set forth policies and approaches to encourage preservation within Priority Conservation Areas and will serve as a map to guide conservation actions.

    Covered Activities

    Private and public land uses, land and public infrastructure development, and conservation activities subject to the County of San Diego’s jurisdiction and control that may result in the “take” of Covered Species.

    Covered Species

    Those species within the Plan Area that will be conserved through the implementation of the North County Plan. “Take” of Covered Species is allowed, provided that the provisions of the North County Plan are implemented.

    The North County Plan's draft Covered Species list includes 41 species. Those which are included as indicator species are designated by an asterisk (*).

    Del Mar manzanita
    Encinitas baccharis
    Engelmann oak
    Mojave tarplant
    San Diego ambrosia
    San Diego button-celery
    San Diego thornmint
    Spreading navarretia
    Thread-leaved brodiaea
    Crotch’s bumblebee
    Riverside fairy shrimp
    San Diego fairy shrimp
    Arroyo chub*
    Arroyo toad
    California red-legged frog
    Western spadefoot toad
    San Diego coast horned lizard
    Southwestern pond turtle
    Two-striped garter snake*
    Bald Eagle
    Bell’s (sage) sparrow*
    California spotted owl
    Coastal cactus wren
    Coastal California gnatcatcher
    Golden eagle Grasshopper sparrow*
    Least Bell's vireo
    Loggerhead shrike
    Northern harrier*
    Southwestern willow flycatcher
    Tricolored blackbird
    Western Burrowing owl
    Western yellow-billed cuckoo 
    Mountain lion
    Pallid bat
    San Diego black-tailed jackrabbit*
    Southern mule deer*
    Southern California ringtail
    Stephens’ kangaroo rat
    Townsend’s big-eared bat

    Unincorporated county

    Land located outside the city limits. 

    San Diego County is approximately 2.9 million acres of which 2.3 million acres are unincorporated areas. Within the unincorporated area, the County’s land-use jurisdiction is limited by Tribal lands, and State and Federally owned lands, and military installations including Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. As a result, the County has land use jurisdiction over 772,239 acres or 35% of the unincorporated area.

    Sensitive Species

    Species which meet any of the following criteria: (1) those species that are included on generally accepted and documented lists of plants and animals of endangered, threatened, candidate, or of special concern by the federal government or State of California; (2) narrow endemic species or sensitive plant species (as defined herein); or (3) those species that meet the definition of "rare or endangered species" under section 15380 of the CEQA Guidelines.


    Short for biological diversity, it is the full array of living things considered at all levels, from genetic variations of a single species to arrays of species and arrays of genera, families, and higher taxonomic levels; includes natural communities and ecosystems.


    A conservation action taken to offset the impacts to a species or their native habitat.


    Those actions taken to improve and maintain the suitability of the habitat for a Covered Species by restoring or enhancing the habitat, or by reducing, removing, or preventing threats that may degrade the habitat (e.g., invasive plant infestations or trespass). Some conservation actions may also be management actions.

    Wildlife Corridor

    A wildlife corridor is a general term which may refer to a linkage or a corridor. 

    A linkage is an area of habitat that provides connectivity between core areas and provides breeding and foraging habitat for resident species. They facilitate the movement of larger animals and the continuance of ecosystem processes and serve as habitat for smaller species that live within them; both uses prevent genetic isolation of plants and animal populations and improve gene flow among populations. Habitat linkages also provide resiliency to ecosystems recovering from natural and anthropogenic environmental disturbances such as fire, flood, and climate change. 

    A corridor is a connection that allows for native species movement, dispersal and migration of wildlife species, and is generally narrower in width than a linkage.

    Built Environment

    Refers to human-made infrastructure and resources designed to support human activity, such as schools, libraries, parks, transit routes, police and fire stations, grocery stores and other amenities.