Area: 113 acres
Location: City of Lake Elsinore, Riverside County, California.
Date Acquired: 2000-2001
Acquisition Type: The Summerhill Preserve is owned by three different entities: Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), WRC Regional Conservation Authority, and City of Lake Elsinore. CNLM manages all the lands as one ecological unit and holds multiple conservation easements on the Preserve.
Key Habitats: Coastal Scrub
Species of Special Interest to CNLM: Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), Bell’s sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli belli), Rufous-crowned sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps canescens), Loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) and Cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
The 113-acre Summerhill Preserve was established in 2000 to mitigate for impacts to habitat for the federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica). Although the Summerhill Preserve is owned by three different entities (CNLM, WRC Regional Conservation Authority, and City of Lake Elsinore), the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) manages all the lands as one ecological unit and holds multiple conservation easements on the Preserve.
From high hilltops within the Preserve are views of Lake Elsinore and the Santa Ana Mountains. The Summerhill Preserve is covered exclusively in Riversidian sage scrub, and in average rain years the annual native wildflowers are abundant. Riversidian sage scrub is the preferred habitat of the coastal California gnatcatcher and other rare birds. Eight to ten pairs of coastal California gnatcatchers (Polioptila californica californica) reside on this Preserve, as do populations of other sensitive species including Bell’s sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli belli), southern California rufous-crowned sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps canescens), and more recently, cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) have been detected breeding here. Adjacent lands to the north support natural habitats with one of the county’s densest populations of coastal California gnatcatchers (Polioptila californica californica).
As much as 90% of the Riversidian sage scrub in Riverside County has been converted to agriculture or urban areas in the past 100 years. Surrounding lands are quickly being converted to suburban residential communities, and the Preserve shares its borders with several housing developments. Although the Preserve is small in size, it will hold importance as a stepping stone for wildlife moving between larger protected areas to the north and east, as well as to the Cleveland National Forest to the west (should the surrounding open space be developed). The site is also an important foraging area for birds nesting in the wetlands of Lake Elsinore.
The primary management goal on the Summerhill Preserve is to maintain high-quality habitat suitable for the coastal California gnatcatcher. Since Riversidian sage scrub is the preferred habitat of this species, the existing healthy sage scrub community must be maintained. Our management program on this Preserve entails controlling invasive exotic weeds. To verify we are attaining our objectives we monitor the composition of the plant community and the abundance of coastal California gnatcatchers.