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Natural habitat returns on nearly 300 acres through OCTA effort with Irvine Ranch Conservancy, OC Parks

The Orange County Transportation Authority, working in partnership with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and OC Parks, has helped complete the restoration of nearly 300 acres of natural habitat in the foothills of Orange County.

OCTA funded 84 acres of the 293-acre restoration through Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements.

The project is the latest of 12 OCTA restoration projects to obtain final approvals from state and federal wildlife agencies.

The restored land, in the Bee Flat Canyon area of OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon, is east of Orange near Modjeska Canyon. For years, the land was choked with invasive weeds that threatened the natural habitat of the area.

The restoration project, led by IRC, took place over nearly a 10-year period, as evasive weeds such as black mustard and milk thistle were gradually removed and replaced with native plant life such as coastal sage scrub, oak woodlands, chaparral and native grasslands.

“This is another fantastic example of how OCTA has brought a balanced approach to improving transportation in Orange County while also protecting the valuable natural resources that make it such a special place to live,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove.

When voters overwhelmingly renewed Measure M in 2006, the measure included an Environmental Freeway Mitigation Program that helps offset the potential adverse effects of expanding Orange County’s freeways.

The program helps expedite freeway projects through Measure M, also known as OC Go, while protecting the environment. OCTA has purchased more than 1,300 acres of open space – land that otherwise could have been developed – to protect it in its natural state forever.

Those properties, purchased from willing sellers, are in Trabuco Canyon, Silverado Canyon, Brea and Laguna Beach.

The environmental program also includes approximately $10 million for 12 habitat restoration projects, such as the one at Bee Flat Canyon, totaling more than 350 acres.

“OCTA and OC Parks have been great supporters throughout this process and their partnership is invaluable,” said Robert Freese, IRC’s project manager. “We will continue to monitor and manage Bee Flat Canyon and hope to see an increase in wildlife over the coming years.”

To date, the wildlife agencies have signed off on several of the restoration projects, signifying the continued success of the program as well as the partnership that has been forged with the environmental community.

This article was released by the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Bee Flat after habitat restoration sponsored by Orange County Transportation Authority. Courtesy photo.
Bee Flat after habitat restoration sponsored by Orange County Transportation Authority. Courtesy photo.