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Audubon Receives Grant to Continue Restoration of Unique San Diego County Wetlands

The community-driven effort brings together local students, indigenous tribes, scientists, and others to protect and improve vital habitat


(San Diego, Jan. 31, 2024) For the third year in a row, the Dorrance Family Foundation has awarded a major grant to Audubon California and partners towards work to restore San Diego County’s Mission Bay and Buena Vista Lagoon. The $420,000 grant was also awarded jointly to the Buena Vista and San Diego Audubon Societies.

San Diego County has a unique network of coastal lagoons, providing valuable habitat for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. Mission Bay, historically comprised of wetlands, marshes, and saltwater expanses, has been heavily developed over the years, and is now known as the largest human-made aquatic park in the United States. Buena Vista Lagoon is the only freshwater system among a string of coastal San Diego County lagoons, and has degraded over time due to human development. Both waterways contain various threatened habitats, including eel grass beds and salt marshes, that are vitally important to waterfowl and shorebird migration.

"With this continued support, we will be able to introduce our communities to the value, beauty and habitat that tidal wetlands provide,” said Andrew Meyer, Director of Conservation at San Diego Audubon Society. “Investing in restoring and interpreting these places now is one of the best actions we can take to fight the climate crisis." 

The restoration effort engages students, tribes, and community members to build awareness, garner support, and collect community input for these restoration projects. Over 150 students will visit the wetlands and get direct experience in restoration science through grant-funded field trips. Community and Indigenous members will help shape the design for the Wetlands Reserve, which is adjacent to the Buena Vista Lagoon, and steward Mission Bay through hands-on restoration and advocacy activities. This year, the project will also document stories of the Payómkawichum and Kumeyaay peoples to weave traditional Indigenous land management practices into these restoration projects.  

“Thanks to continued funding from the Dorrance Family Foundation, we are closer to realizing our goal of restoring and enhancing critical coastal wetlands habitat in North County San Diego,” said Natalie Shapiro, executive director of Buena Vista Audubon Society. “We can continue the complex permitting, planning, and design work—all necessary steps for our project’s success. In addition, the grant funding has helped us engage the community: members of the Payómkawichum Nation and local residents have been indispensable in helping craft this project, which gets us closer to realizing an outcome of enhanced wildlife habitat and a place for people to connect with nature in this very urbanized part of North County.” 

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with members from the Kumeyaay and Payómkawichum to ensure that we can fully restore these lands alongside the original caretakers,” said Liliana Griego, Senior Coastal Manager at Audubon California. “This work is focused on providing access to communities who have been historically excluded and erased, and not just access to these physical spaces, but access to the table where decisions are made.”

Tule boat build at Love Your Wetlands Day 2023.
Tule boat build at Love Your Wetlands Day 2023. Photo: Michael Gasbarro.

To kick off this year’s grant, San Diego Audubon will be hosting their annual Love Your Wetlands Day on February 3, 2024 at Kendall-Frost Marsh:  

Date/Time: Saturday, 02/03/24, 9am – 3pm (speakers at 9am) 

Location: Kendall-Frost Marsh, Pacific Beach Drive, San Diego, CA 92109, near Crown Point Drive 

Speakers: Dr. Stan Rodriguez, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Megan Cooper from State Coastal Conservancy, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner, Mayor Todd Gloria, and Council President Pro Tem Joe LaCava 

Shineh Rhee, Audubon California,

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About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonCA.

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