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Environmental Non-Profits in Orange County, CA

Orange County, California is home to some excellent nonprofit organizations who share our goals to conserve, protect, and restore the environment. They provide vital services to the public through educational programming, animal rescue, restoration, advocacy and much more. OC Habitats would like to spotlight four great Orange County environmental nonprofits who are making a difference in our community.

Photo by Matt Bonnell. Taken from

OCBPC is dedicated to treating and rehabilitating injured raptors and returning them to the wild. They house wild birds of prey brought in by the concerned public and federal, state, and county agencies. During rehabilitation, a team of veterinarians and nurses from Serrano Animal and Bird Hospital examine, diagnose, and treat injured raptors, administering treatments such as medication, X-rays, surgery, and physical therapy. Once the birds have shown enough improvement, they are moved to flight cages (mews) so they can regain the skills necessary for surviving in the wild. The hospital staff and center members carefully evaluate the birds for proper health, diet, and behavior before releasing them back into their natural habitats. Raptors are released under state and federal guidelines, respecting current wild raptor population cycles and considering environmental factors. In addition, weather and status of wild birds in the area are also analyzed before release.

Veterinarian team at OCBPC. Photo from

OCBPC believes raptors play an integral role in the balance of nature, and education is the best long-term solution to prevent and mitigate many of the dangers they face. As part of their outreach efforts, ambassadors from OCBPC host a display at The Ranch Hotel in Laguna Beach every Saturday from 11am-1 pm to teach guests about raptors. OCBPC also hosts monthly public raptor releases that have been modified to virtual livestreams via their Youtube channel due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In August, OCBPC moved to a bigger facility in Lake Forest. Located with the help of officials from the county, the center successfully raised more than $300,000 of an expected $400,000 price tag for the new location. The OCBPC staff are completely volunteer and all donations go to the treatment, care, housing and feeding of the raptors.

As the only licensed marine mammal hospital in all of Orange County, PMMC rescues, rehabilitates, and releases marine mammals and promotes ocean stewardship through research, education, and collaboration.

Much of PMMC’s work deals with the rescue and rehabilitation of harbor and elephant seals and sea lions. The animals will beach themselves to be warm and dry when feeling ill but they may seek rest on land for a variety of reasons and may not need intervention. The PMMC staff is trained to recognize animals suffering from infections, malnourishment, pneumonia, gill net strangulation and other ailments, which can harm an animal's chance for survival. Most animals come in dehydrated and the most effective means to provide fluids and nourishment is through tube feeding. As soon as the animals are hydrated and stable, they are weaned to eat whole fish. Once an animal has gained an optimal weight and is competing for food, it's ready for release. Prior to release, each animal is tagged with an identification number. The color-coded tags indicate the animal has been rehabilitated and helps identify the specific animal and care center in case the animal needs care in the future.

A group of patients at the PPMC.

The PMMC outreach team is currently utilizing distance learning technology to bring conservation messaging to children and adults all over the nation and internationally. Their Ocean Explorers online after school program investigates marine science through the world of marine mammals. Over the course of four different sessions, children learn about a diversity of marine mammals, their adaptations, and what they do to live under the sea. Kids take an in-depth look at an example species each session through live chats, videos, presentations, interactive activities and/or crafts. All sessions are tied together with an overarching theme of ocean interconnectivity, conservation, and ocean stewardship. October’s topic area is Diving the Depths, where kids investigate the different depths of the ocean to discover where marine mammals find their food, how they catch it and the adaptations that help them do so.

PMMC is currently hosting its annual Fish Drive for the 2020 season. During busy months, the center can go through 500 - 1,000 pounds of fish per day with a yearly cost that can exceed $100,000. One dollar equates to approximately one pound of fish and donations can be made through the PMMC website.

HFE is dedicated to the protection, preservation and restoration of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor and surrounding areas. HFE was formed in 1976 to protect the unique, rare, and disappearing landscapes in the Chino Hills by establishing Chino Hills State Park (CHSP). These hills lie at the juncture of Southern California’s four most populous counties: Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino. In the western part of the Corridor, 4,000 acres are protected above Whittier as the Puente Hills Preserve while 14,100 acres are set aside in the east as Chino Hills State Park. The entire hillside system is now connected to the Cleveland National Forest at Coal Canyon under the 91 freeway in Yorba Linda and Anaheim. Threats to the integrity of the State Park, its borders in Brea, Yorba Linda, and Chino Hills, and the Wildlife Corridor in general have continued to emerge from development interests.

HFE is working to permanently protect the remaining parcels of undeveloped land in the Puente-Chino hillside system. CHSP protects 14,100 acres in the eastern part of the hills, while another 4,000 acres in the west have been saved near Whittier as the Puente Hills Preserve. HFE has coordinated efforts to secure funds to add the Coal Canyon Wildlife Corridor to the State Park. The two properties on both sides of the 91 freeway comprise the last viable linkage between this hillside system and the Santa Ana Mountains at Coal Canyon. Without the Coal Canyon connection, the entire Puente-Chino hillside system would become “an island” of habitat and native species would eventually decline due to a limited gene pool and loss of large predators.

HFE’s efforts in 2020 include: participating in important land use decisions that have the potential to impact the Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor; continuing legal challenges on lands adjacent to the State Park where poorly planned developments or uses threaten the integrity of the Park and its resources; continuing to work to secure and protect funding mechanisms for land acquisition to complete the ridge lines of the State Park; and encouraging Caltrans to fulfill its promise to allow a functioning wildlife corridor under the 91 freeway at Coal Canyon now that 10 years of its use as a staging area is finished.

HBWC is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the few remaining wetland acres in Huntington Beach. The Conservancy owns and manages 118 acres of the Huntington Beach wetlands, including Talbert, Magnolia, and Brookhurst Marshes, located along Pacific Coast Highway from Brookhurst to Newland. HBWC has also taken on a regional conservation role, assisting in the restoration of 46 acres at the San Joaquin Marsh in Irvine.

Group of OCH team members working on restoration at HBWC.

Educating the public about the importance of coastal wetlands and the protection of wildlife habitat is a key goal of the Conservancy. The HBWC Visitor Interpretive Center features a large wetlands diorama, educational displays on the ecological role of coastal wetlands and their restoration and threats, and a unique interactive display on diagnosing and caring for sick and injured wildlife. The Center's displays, three years in the making, were funded with $650,000 in grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and other agencies.

The acquisition of the last remaining marsh in Huntington Beach, 49.4 acres of Newland Marsh located at PCH and Beach Boulevard, has been a longtime goal of the Conservancy. In September 2020, the California State Coastal Conservancy allocated a $2,460,000 grant to acquire the Newland Marsh property from the California Department of Transportation, and to transfer the property to HBWC. The grant will enable the Conservancy to provide habitat for a number of endangered and threatened species of birds, including the Ridgway’s Rail, Western Snowy Plover and Belding’s Savannah Sparrow.

Newland Marsh contains sensitive wetland habitats, and the acquisition and restoration of the Marsh is the culmination of a 30-year joint effort between HBWC and the Coastal Conservancy. The project’s aim is to secure the Huntington Beach wetlands, restore the marshes, and provide public access and interpretation. HWBC has already completed full tidal restorations at Talbert, Brookhurst, and Magnolia Marshes, and in 2019, completed a conceptual restoration plan for Newland Marsh. Looking forward, HWBC also plans to continue with the development of further out-planting of the endangered species of plant (Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak), begin the process of reversing erosion issues in Talbert Marsh, and modify K-12 education programs for distance learning.

While we listed four great environmental nonprofits in Orange County, California, there are many more organizations that perform important work in our community. Most of these nonprofits have a completely volunteer staff and rely on donations to continue operating. OC Habitats encourages you to support these organizations, give donations or volunteer your time to help preserve our natural world!

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