Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

In the News: Manzanita Elementary students contribute to wildlife camera project

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October 3, 2017

The AZ Daily Star published a feature story about our partnership with Manzanita Elementary School on October 1, 2017. We are excited these students and teachers are getting recognition for their contribution to our Remote Wildlife Camera Monitoring Project and that this project is growing beyond our dreams. Lead teachers Jennifer DeBenedetti and Charlotte Ackerman have even developed a four-week curriculum based around the project called Critter Cams for Kids that provides a deeper foundation of knowledge about wildlife linkages and habitat fragmentation. 

To read the Daily Star article in its entirety, including photos of our youngest camera volunteers and Coalition Program & Outreach Associate Sarah Whelan, head here

You can also check out a wonderful YouTube video about the project and the curriculum that was developed to support the Critter Cams below.

Meet our youngest camera volunteers

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Our Remote Wildlife Camera Monitoring Program is continuing to grow! This past year, we recruited some new help from our friends with the Manzanita Elementary Robotics Club. Interested in exploring the use of technology for use in pulling data from the field, data management, species identification, and how this data can be used for public planning purposes, the Robotics Club asked to aid in our work while learning the ins and outs themselves. Led by two enthusiastic teachers, Charlotte Ackerman and Jennifer DeBenedetti, the Manzanita Robotics Club funded and helped place two cameras in our Oro Valley study. Continuing forward as we pull data from these cameras, students of the club will work to help sort, identify, and analyze the data. We’re excited to engage young minds about the importance of open spaces and understanding the ecosystems that surround us. Looking ahead, we are hoping to continue this partnership by expanding the number of camera monitored by the Robotics Club and assisting the participating teachers in the development of their new curriculum around this project. 

Thank you to Charlotte Ackerman and Jennifer DeBenedetti for spearheading this project!

For more information about our Remote Wildlife Camera Monitoring Program and to learn how to support this program with your time or your donation, head here

To read an AZ Daily Star article about this partnership published on October 1, 2017, head here

 

CSDP Program & Outreach Associate Sarah Whelan instructs Manzanita Elementary School students about the ins and outs of a remote wildlife camera before placing two new cameras out in the field in our Oro Valley Study Area.

New Video on Wildlife Crossings: Cost-Effective, Improving Safety, and Re-connecting Habitat

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We all know the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A recently released Vox video about wildlife crossings demonstrates this. 

Grab a cup of coffee and take a look at this great introductory video about wildlife crossings, why they are so important, why we should build many more, and how they are cost-effective in the long term. Coalition staff even saw some footage of crossings that they’d never seen before! 

https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/7/3/15914648/wildlife-crossings-roadkill-highway-design

 

New wildlife crossings on the horizon for Tangerine Road and La Cholla Boulevard

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April 20, 2017

Tangerine Road and La Cholla Boulevard will soon be the home of more new wildlife crossings in Pima County. Five new wildlife underpasses are currently under construction on Tangerine Road and three new wildlife underpasses are currently in the design phase for La Cholla Boulevard. The Tangerine crossings are in the Town of Marana near the intersection of Tangerine and Thornydale. The La Cholla crossings will be between Tangerine and Overton Roads. 

All of the new wildlife underpasses are being designed for small mammals and will be 6-9 feet in height. We expect a wide range of animals to use the crossings, including coyotes, javelinas, foxes, desert tortoises, and more. 

These crossings are being funded by the “Wildlife Linkages” funding stream of the Regional Transportation Authority. This funding stream is $45 million of the $2 billion RTA budget and is dedicated to infrastructure projects that promote connected wildlife linkages. 

As this area of Pima County continues to grow, these new wildlife underpasses  will make our roadways safer for motorists and connect critical open spaces for wildlife to migrate, forage, and seek out mates. 

To learn more about the new La Cholla Road wildlife crossings, check out this recent Fox 11 News story: http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/35151207/three-new-wildlife-crossings-to-be-built-along-la-cholla

Thank you for your continued support of connected Sonoran Desert wildlife linkages and safe roadways for motorists and wildlife! 

“Bat boxes” provide a new home for displaced bats under local bridges

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Bats emerge at dusk from underneath the Houghton Road bridge. Photo courtesy KVOA.

April 18, 2017

Did you know that southern Arizona bridges provide important roosting habitat for local bats? Many older bridges were built with long, thin expansion cracks underneath them. These cracks have turned out to be perfect roosting habitat for thousands and thousands of bats, and often pregnant females. Bats roost under the bridges during the day and then emerge at dusk in impressive swarms to forage, feed on mosquitoes and other insects, and pollinate local plants and crops. 

Unfortunately, modern bridge designs have evolved and these long, thin expansion cracks are not used anymore. When old bridges are now replaced, we run the risk of also destroying this important bat habitat. Local biologists and conservationists are trying a new strategy of installing “bat boxes” under new bridges. These boxes are hung from underneath the new bridge and include a series of thin crevices where bats can roost. Each box can hold approximately 300-359 bats. 

The new Ina Road bridge, currently under construction, is the first place where bat boxes are being deployed. First, bat boxes have been installed a mile to the south on the Cortaro Farms Road bridge. We hope that the bats currently roosting in the old Ina Road bridge will migrate down to these bat boxes when the Ina Road bridge is demolished. Then, when the new Ina Road bridge is finished, the bat boxes will be moved underneath this bridge. The Houghton Road bridge north of Interstate 10 is another project where bat boxes will be used to mitigate for the loss of existing bat habitat when this bridge is replaced in the near future. 

Both of these bat box projects are funded by the “Wildlife Linkages” funding stream of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). With your support, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection has been a proud partner in all of the wildlife linkage projects funded by the RTA and we are very excited to see how these new “bat boxes” work! 

Check out this Fox 11 News Story from April 14, 2017 to learn more about the new Ina Road Bridge bat boxes:

http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/35155657/workers-scramble-to-find-new-home-for-bats-displaced-by-construction

Check out this KVOA news story from September 29, 2015 about the Houghton Road bridge project:

http://www.kvoa.com/story/30147707/new-houghton-bridge-includes-plans-for-bats

 

Coalition member groups win big lawsuit for pygmy owl protection

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Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl. Photo courtesy USFWS/Bob Miles.

April 6, 2017 

Last week, on March 29, 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife – both Coalition member groups – won an important lawsuit over the denial of endangered species protection for the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl. The new ruling establishes that the federal government must reconsider endangered species protection for this little owl, overturning a 2011 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

According to a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity:

“The court also overturned a policy that made it far more difficult for species at risk of extinction in important portions of their range to gain federal protection. The pygmy owl faces serious threats to its survival in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, but the agency denied protection anyway, arguing it was secure elsewhere.”

This part of the ruling has implications for all Sonoran Desert wildlife species that are vulnerable, threatened, or endangered and we will be keeping a close eye on how this ruling impacts other species in the future. 

The cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl has a long and storied history in the Sonoran Desert. The initial listing of this small owl as an endangered species in 1997 was the main spark for the creation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and the formation of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. We are gratified that, with this new ruling, the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl may once again be granted the endangered species protection it deserves. 

For the full press release on this ruling, head here

And thank you for everything you do to protect all Sonoran Desert wildlife species! 

Coalition Director featured on AZ Public Media’s Metro Week

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March 28, 2017

Coalition Director Carolyn Campbell was interviewed for Arizona Public Media’s Metro Week TV spot recently. Joined by Arizona Game and Fish biologist Jeff Gagnon, both Carolyn and Jeff discuss the new Oracle Road wildlife crossings, what it took to get them constructed, plans for future crossings, citizen science efforts, and what has surprised them now that the first year of monitoring has finished. 

Check out the interview below!

Pima County publishes its first “Annual Report” on the Multi-Species Conservation Plan

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March 23, 2017

At the end of February, Pima County published its first required “Annual Report” on the implementation of the Multi-Species Conservation Plan (or MSCP). The MSCP was almost 18 years in the making and provides mitigation for impacts to 44 species in Pima County, seven of which are currently listed as endangered (scientists determined that the remaining species could become endangered over the 30-year life of the plan). The Coalition was an involved partner in the MSCP every step of the way and, with your support, advocated for the strongest conservation measures possible to be included in the plan. We continue to partner with Pima County as they implement the plan – in February, we facilitated an overflight of Pima County conservation lands by Pima County staff so they could do a “saguaro count” to assess habitat conditions. The flight was provided for free by LightHawk, Inc

A few notable milestones outlined in the Annual Report include:

  • In October 2016, Pima County permanently protected mitigation lands owned by the County or the Regional Flood Control District with restrictive covenants. This is something the Coalition strongly advocated for and we were very pleased when it finally happened. 
  • Private lands voluntary coverage officially began on January 9, 2017.
  • The Bingham Cienega property was chosen as the first official mitigation property for impacts to habitat. 

To read the full MSCP Annual report, head here

And thank you again for all your support of the MSCP and the Coalition’s advocacy and involvement in this award-winning conservation plan! 

The first year of results are in!

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March 14, 2017

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since the Oracle Road wildlife crossings were finished and opened for business. Over the past 12 months, we have been heartened to see many beautiful photos of wildlife using the wildlife bridge and underpass and safely crossing Oracle Road.

Just a few weeks ago, the Arizona Game and Fish Department released their first “progress report” on the crossings. Game and Fish has been gathering data about wildlife use of the crossings using both still and video cameras. They have also begun tracking the movements of nine Sonoran desert tortoises that live near the crossings, with plans to track 12 more in 2017.

In the past year, almost 1200 animals have used the crossings, including mule deer, bobcats, and javelina, with a total of 13 species recorded. Plans for 2017 include continuing to monitor the crossings and also conducting a series of roadkill surveys along Oracle Road to ensure the wildlife fencing is doing its job. There are still a few areas that are un-fenced but we expect these gaps to be filled in 2017.

Check out the full progress report at the Regional Transportation Authority website here. And thanks again for your support of the Coalition’s collaboration with Game & Fish and many other community partners on this project! 

Coyotes in SR77 underpass

Three coyotes using the wildlife underpass on Oracle Road. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Deer on SR77 overpass

A herd of deer used the Oracle Road wildlife bridge near sunset in October 2016. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department

Javelina in SR77 underpass.

Javelinas and their young use the Oracle Road underpass to get across this busy road safely in September 2016. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Hello from Hannah!

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by Hannah Stitzer

Hello Coalition supporters! It’s been a busy six months for me since I started some new adventures. In August, I began graduate school at the University of Arizona pursuing a Master of Science in Planning degree and I am loving it. I plan on using my degree to promote active and alternative transportation, create sustainable and livable communities, and, of course, to protect open spaces and our environment! I also got married in November at beautiful Oracle State Park with the backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. My husband, Alex, and I took some time to complete a bicycle tour around a portion of southern Arizona in December. We had a wonderful time and saw some beautiful places! With the spring semester underway, I will be interning with the Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian Program to promote active transportation and make bicycling and walking safer for the community. 

It has been exciting to keep up with the Coalition and to see all the amazing recent accomplishments! It was an honor to work as a staff member and I often reminisce about my time in the field with wildlife camera volunteers. The Coalition taught me so much and inspired me to pursue a planning degree to make a positive impact on the environment and the community. It’s always exciting to me when my classes incorporate the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan or the Oracle Road wildlife crossings into the course material. The Coalition has made amazing strides in conservation, and I plan to use the skills and knowledge I gained from my time with the organization and my education to continue the cause!