San Diego County inspectors approve multi-year program to increase native plants in the area

San Diego County inspectors voted 4-0 on Wednesday in favor of a multi-year program to increase the use of native plants in the area.

The program was developed by the San Diego Regional Biodiversity Working Group, created at the recommendation of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Terra Lawson-Remer.

More native plants aren’t just good for the environment, Lawson-Remer said; they also benefit the region’s economy in the form of more landscaping and related service jobs. He said the program will encourage “conserving the biodiversity that makes our region so beautiful and unique, and requiring the use of native plants in many county projects.”

With climate change threatening the nation’s unique habitats and ecosystems, “the good news is that we have the power to protect these fragile habitats, and this initiative will make it easier than ever before,” he added.

More native plants will help with habitat corridors, drought management and rainwater reduction, Fletcher added.

The program entails planting demonstration gardens and developing educational materials for San Diego County students. The seven development strategies are:

  • a landscape design guide with definitions and best installation practices and parameters;
  • where possible, a requirement for native plants in new county facilities or retrofits;
  • a website that offers education and training resources;
  • educational materials and resources for residents and landscape professionals;
  • a landscape professional certificate program in collaboration with community colleges and other regional partners;
  • promoting native plants for special developments in unincorporated areas, in the form of discounts for lawn conversion; and
  • Free, easy-to-use online landscape design templates.

The entire program will run over a six-year period, according to the County Planning and Development Services report.

Native plants include California lilac, Cleveland sage, live beach oak, Penstemon, and sticky monkey flower.

During Wednesday’s public opinion period, most of the speakers were in favor of the programme.

Frank Landis of the California Native Plant Society said his group is committed to helping the program succeed. “We have a long way to go and we hope this will be a very rewarding journey,” he added.

Native plants can support 10 to 15 times more species, while healthy wetlands can sequester 10 times more carbon, said Mary Liesegang, director of conservation group Wildcoast.

Mary Matava, head of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said the organization supports an educational/incentive-based approach, but that some native plants are difficult to establish on certain plots. Matava suggested that the county hire a specialist to work with the nursery gardens and provide workshops for the homeowners.

Suzanne Hume, founder of CleanEarth4Kids, said that although her group supports more native plants, she was not invited to participate in original program development. She added that the county “should stop using toxic pesticides.”

Inspector Jim Desmond was absent Wednesday, and his office did not provide an official reason. Wednesday’s regular meeting, which focused on land use and environmental issues, was the last meeting of 2022.

County officials who won last month’s election, including Desmond and Fletcher, will be sworn in at a ceremony on January 9. The first regular meeting of the board of directors of the new year will be held on January 10.

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