Least Bell’s Vireo’s SLR Song

Least Bell's Vireo's SLR Song

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” ~ Maya Angelou

I love birds. And, the tiny endangered songbird Least Bell’s vireo and its connection to the historic San Luis River, the location for North River Farms proposed project, is a story that needs to be told.  This tiny songbird delayed the construction of a multi-million dollar bridge in Bonsall, where I went to elementary school from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

In the 1980’s, once the Bonsall Bridge reconstruction began,  it met with 2 barriers: 1. protests to the destruction of the historic bridge, being only 1 of 2 of its kind within the 5-county area, and 2. an endangered songbird named Least Bell’s vireo.

This tiny gray songbird requires a riparian zone for survival and protection from extinction. Before learning about this bridge’s story, I’d never heard of a riparian zone. Turns out it’s extremely important and directly related to the San Luis Rey river valley because it’s a riparian zone.  Riparian zones occur along watercourses, bodies and ways and have many benefits.

 Benefits of riparian zones:

  • helping to control  pollution
  • helping to supply food, cover, and water for a large diversity of animals and
  • helping to serve as migration routes and stopping points between habitats for a variety of wildlife.
  • helping to stabilize stream banks
  • helping to reduce floodwater velocity, resulting in reduced downstream flood peaks.
  • helping to maintain the base flow in drier climates as streams lose water that can help build up the water table deep beneath the stream.

The San Luis Rey River is designated as critical habitat for many animal and plant species: the endangered Least Bell’s vireo, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the endangered southwestern arroyo toad and the threatened California gnatcatcher.  Coastal sage scrub and live oak woodland habitat support numerous species. Golden eagles soar.

Least Bell’s vireo’s habitat would have been destroyed by the destruction of the bridge.  This story ends with the original bridge maintained as a horse and human walkway and habitat consciously created to protect this tiny songbird from extinction. Once this protection was in place, the new bridge was built.

The proposed North River Farms project, if built, would radically encroach upon the San Luis Rey river riparian zone.  Preserving this land as agricultural matters. Its habitat is fragile and resources invaluable. Native Americans have known this.

This land has a sacred history – land along the historic San Luis Rey river valley once occupied by the Native American Luiseno Tribe,  named after the San Luis Rey Mission’s founder, Fermin Fransigno de Lasuen.

The Luiseno Tribe’s original name was Payomkawichum. Their land and water occupied. They, along with their ways and customs were colonized and decimated. They were major contributors to developing the San Luis Rey Mission, one of the most historic missions in existence and the mission along this river.

This historic and rich land is a treasure. Once this land is paved over and developed according to what the North River Farm proposed project would do in a development designated as classic sprawl, it’s gone – forever… along with its habitat. 

There is currently a #LetOceansideVote petition/referendum drive in the city, gathering signatures to protect current agricultural land from sprawl. Signing this supports formally requesting the city council reconsider/repeal their recent approval that allows amending the zoning map designation from agricultural to residential development for the controversial North River Farm 585 unit housing development proposed project for along the San Luis Rey River bed. The council could repeal their decision, or, it could go to a vote of the citizens.

Your signature matters. It asks city council to repeal their approval or give the vote to the people. Please sign this petition by 12.18.19 to make sure your signature gets counted to protect this land and habitat and hold the city council members who approved this project accountable for an irresponsible decision that went against staff recommending this development NOT be approved 3 times.




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