The SDHC Team - Don Scoles, Executive Director

August 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

As we near the September 6th show date, I wanted to make a concerted effort to introduce the San Diego Habitat Conservancy team. Today, I’ll start off by introducing the team’s Executive Director, Don Scoles. He is an incredibly passionate man who has chosen to focus his efforts on our local community for the last several years. As he will share below, we live in one of the world’s premier ecological hot spots, and, though he is too modest to admit it, Don has played an integral part in SDHC’s overall success.

Where are you from originally?

Manhattan Beach, California. I came to San Diego to attend San Diego State University and have been here ever since.

What initially drew you to become involved in the preservation effort?

It probably started with my parents’ influence. Camping trips, traveling, and adventures in the outdoors were regular family recreation. Dad was the floura and fauna enthusiast and mom was a good “armchair” historian and archaeologist. It was through them that I learned to really enjoy natural and cultural resources and learned that these open spaces and resources are important and worth conserving. My parents were both teachers who met teaching at an outdoor camp. I have a few of their old outdoor teaching manuals from the 1950s and early 1960s. Now that SDHC is developing our own educational program, I have read many of the old books to see how to introduce and foster interest in the outdoors and natural sciences. The books are entertaining because of the dated language and photos used in the books, but many of the conservation values and education methods presented are relevant and valid today and we will be using them in our program.

When did you join the SDHC team and why did you decide to become a part of this organization?

 I took over as SDHC’s second Executive Director in September 2009. My career prior to joining was as a planner and compliance monitor, so I was familiar with regulatory requirements for mitigation lands and their ultimate preservation. I knew there were long-term managers for the preserved lands, but I did not know the details of how legal protections were applied to the preserved land or the day-to-day operations of management of the land. When I was offered the job, I was excited by the challenge of learning these new details and leading an organization as it grows. I also liked the idea of working for a non-profit, which I had not done before.

What is your favorite preserve and why?

I am going to answer like a proud parent with a lot of children and say, “I love them all equally, but for different reasons.” At Woods Valley Ranch, I am enamored by the tremendous oak groves and rock outcrops, at Lonestar and Vallecitos Ridge I love the vistas, and I like Carlsbad Raceway for its history and for the pleasant surprises we find there as the habitat recovers. I like Emerald Point for its ease of access and being able to show the public how hard and soft engineered solutions can work together in successful habitat restoration in an urban area.  I like Bridges for its sheer size, the perennial stream that flows through it, and the abundance and uniqueness of the species that are there. I am looking forward to Seacliff, a new preserve we will start managing this fall, because it will be our first coastal preserve. I could go on and on…

Why is it important to focus efforts on San Diego County specifically?

When I am asked to speak on behalf of SDHC, I am fond of saying, “If you like conservation, you don’t have to go somewhere exotic to do it, you can practice real conservation right here in San Diego and literally in your backyard.” The San Diego Region is one of the world’s few biodiversity hotspots - areas with a high number of plant and animal species with the habitats experiencing a high degree of threat or loss. San Diego as a county has more plants and animal species than 49 states in our nation. Because San Diego County is a great place to live, development of the region has resulted in the pressures and loss of the habitat that supports the wide number of species. So, unfortunately, San Diego County also has the dubious distinction of having the most endangered species of any county in the entire nation.

 If you could share a message with all of San Diego, what would you share?

Enjoy what’s around you. It’s truly unique, and it does not occur anywhere else in the world. Pull that non-native plant, replace it with a native plant, and enjoy the increased wildlife it attracts. 


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