Friends of the Desert #7

Friends of the Desert
E-News Issue #7
August 16, 2001
*A project of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection*
Please visit our website for more information: http://www.sonorandesert.org

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IN THIS ISSUE:
*Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for New Monuments
*Marana Upzoning in Critical Habitat – Please Attend Meeting
*Marana Annexing Critical Habitat on Northwest Side
*Upcoming SDCP Steering Committee Meetings

***POLL SHOWS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR NEW MONUMENTS***
Three out of every four Arizonans support the creation of five new
Bureau of Land Management national monuments established last year,
according to a new poll released today by five environmental groups,
including the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. Broad support
for the newly protected areas cut across party lines, ages, location
and gender. In contrast to the poll’s findings, Governor Jane Hull
has recommended to Interior Secretary Gale Norton that these new
monuments be open to development and their boundaries be changed.

Specifically, 79% of the poll respondents opposed removing any land
from the Ironwood Forest National Monument, something the ASARCO
mining company has proposed. The Ironwood Forest National Monument
contains some of the densest stands of ironwood trees in the state and
is also an important birthing ground for the last known viable
population of desert bighorn sheep in Pima County.

The poll also asked registered voters about President Bush’s proposal
to open these public lands to energy development. Two-thirds of all
Arizonans, including a majority of Republicans, wanted to keep new
electric transmission lines and other energy developments out of these
monuments.

"Designation of these national monuments has been a significant
conservation achievement for Arizona, providing natural areas
protection that Arizonans have been asking for" said Carolyn Campbell,
Executive Director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection.
"These poll results are certainly no surprise."

The poll was conducted in July by Phoenix-based Behavior Research
Center and sampled registered voters throughout the state.

***MARANA UPZONING IN CRITICAL HABITAT – PLEASE ATTEND MEETING***
Please attend the Marana Planning and Zoning Commission meeting
6:30pm, Wednesday, August 29, to oppose a major upzoning of 515 acres
located in OCCUPIED pygmy owl habitat. The meeting will be held at
the Marana Town Hall, 13251 N. Lon Adams Road.

The land in question is located at the southwest corner of Thornydale
and Tangerine roads. The current zoning allows for only one house per
25 acres. The developer, Stellar Homes, is asking for an upzoning
that will allow one house per .86 acres. The plan currently calls for
development on 103 acres, and these 103 acres will accommodate
approximately 440 homes. The other 412 acres will be left as
"undisturbed open space." This developer will also be seeking its own
Habitat Conservation Plan, and their current plan will allow them to
adhere to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s 80/20 rule, whereby 80%
of the area is preserved as open space, and only 20% is developed.

To accommodate traffic generated by this subdivision, Camino de
Manana, Thornydale, and Tangerine roads will all need to be widened,
according to the developer. There is also talk of an interchange
being built at Linda Vista and I-10 to further future accommodate
residents.

While the developer touts this development as a unique and excellent
example of land stewardship and habitat conservation, the amount of
disturbance necessary to complete a project like this will be
absolutely disastrous for the pygmy owl. Besides the construction
directly associated with the development of a subdivision, this
project will necessitate additional and significant development of
currently non-existent infrastructure in the area to accommodate all
the people who will live in the 440 homes, which will make it easier
and more desirable to continue to develop in this area in the future.

This is a textbook example of a bad precedent, and we need to do all
we can to stop it. Please attend this meeting and oppose this
upzoning, and lets make sure Marana knows they are being watched!

***MARANA ANNEXING CRITICAL HABITAT ON NORTHWEST SIDE***
Marana has asked the state land department for permission to annex 42
square miles of the northwest side, adjacent to and including the
Tortolita Mountains. About three-quarters of the proposed annexation
area, or 32.2 square miles, lies within federally declared critical
habitat for the pygmy owl in the Tortolita foothills, and much of the
land also lies inside Pima County’s proposed million-acre Sonoran
Desert Conservation Plan reserve. Additionally, nearly 2 square miles
of the proposed annexation land lies inside the still-disputed town of
Tortolita.

Eighty percent of the land is under the State Land Department, which
could put Marana’s proposed annexation on a state board’s agenda by
early September. Private parties, Pima County and the federal
government own the balance of the annexation land, which includes more
than 2,000 acres inside the county’s Tortolita Mountain Park.

State and Marana officials say they have no large-scale development
plans for the choicest desert in the proposed annexation area.
However, based on Marana’s history of large-scale upzonings and poor
land use planning overall, this annexation is cause for considerable
concern, and could potentially impact the success of the County’s
Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

Carolyn Campbell, the Coalition’s director, said she’s also concerned
that the town hasn’t yet signed on to the county’s Sonoran Desert
planning effort. "To me, it sends a pretty public message that Marana
is not in accord with the goals of the plan," said Campbell.

***UPCOMING MEETINGS***
There are 6 months of meetings scheduled for the citizens’ Steering
Committee of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. These meetings are
open to the public:

Wednesday, Sept 5th. 7-9 pm. Inn Suites Hotel, 475 N. Granada (St.
Mary’s just east of I-10);

Saturday, Oct 6th. 930 am. Location TBA;

Wednesday, Nov 7th. 7-9 pm. Midtown Location TBA;

Saturday, Dec 1st. 930 am. Location TBA;

Wednesday, Jan 9th. 7-9 pm. Midtown Location TBA;

Saturday, Feb 2nd. 930 am. Location TBA.

Also: the next Comprehensive Land Use Plan meetings will be held in
early October. We will send out a schedule as soon as we have
information on these meetings.

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