Friends of the Desert #16

Friends of the Desert
E-News Issue #16
January 7, 2003
*A project of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection*
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* 2nd West Branch Clean-up Day this Saturday, January 11 
* Public Meeting on Proposed Pygmy-Owl Critical Habitat, January 23 
* SDCP Steering Committee Update and Upcoming Meetings 
* Open Space Bond Update 
* Help to Make this New Year a Happy One for the Sonoran Desert!! 
* Fundraising News 

* West Branch Clean-up this Saturday!
After a great first effort on November 23, the Coalition, along with
the Santa Cruz River Alliance (SCRA) and other groups, would like to
invite you to help with another clean up of the West Branch of the
Santa Cruz River. This is the last remaining original riparian
habitat along the Santa Cruz River, and is home to many birds,
lizards, and toads, but, unfortunately, is badly in need of help due
to illegal dumping.

Join us this Saturday, January 11, from 8am to noon at the West
Branch of the Santa Cruz (just south of 36th street on Mission Road,
east side of the street�look for the flags.)

SCRA will be providing coffee, bagels, donuts, and trash bags.
Please bring your lunch, water, gloves, sunscreen, and lots of
energy; boots, hats, and binoculars are also recommended. (A few
shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows might come in handy, too!)

For more information and to RSVP, please contact:
Trevor Hare at 623-7080 or, or Diana
Hadley at

The Sky Island Alliance, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection,
Arizona Open Lands Trust, University of Arizona, Pima County Flood
Control, Santa Cruz River Alliance, Tucson Audubon Society 

* Public Meeting on Proposed Pygmy-Owl Critical Habitat, January 23�
Please Attend!
Federal Critical Habitat Designation Released for Public Comment;
Public Hearing to be Held in January in Tucson

On November 26th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposed the
designation of 1,208,001 acres of "critical habitat" for the
endangered cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. Under federal law, owl
habitat on federal land within the critical habitat zone-as well as
private or state land requiring federal permits-may not be destroyed
or degraded.

The pygmy owl was once common in Arizona from the New River (north
of Phoenix) to the Mexican border. Habitat destruction has reduced
the species to just 18 adults in Arizona in 2002. The tiny owl was
listed as an endangered species in 1997 in response to a scientific
petition and litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity.

While the new designation is 470,000 acres larger than the original
1999 designation, it excludes important and greatly threatened
habitat in northwest Tucson, the San Pedro River, and around
Phoenix. The exclusion of these areas contradicts the Fish and
Wildlife Service’s own draft Pygmy Owl Recovery Plan. With fully
one-third of the known population of pygmy-owls occupying the
northwest side of the Tucson metropolitan area and adjoining area of
southern Pinal County, and with this northwest population showing
the greatest reproductive success, the new critical habitat
designation is not biologically sound.

A public hearing to receive information and suggestions will be held
from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, 2003 at the Leo Rich
Theater (at the Tucson Convention Center), 260 S. Church in Tucson.
Written comments may be submitted to the Field Office Supervisor,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 W. Royal Palm Road, Suite 103,
Phoenix, Arizona, 85021-4951, or via fax at (602) 242-2513, or by
email to Comments must be received by FWS by
February 25, 2003 to be considered in the decision-making process.

The proposal, the draft economic analysis, maps and other pygmy-owl
information are available at or by
contacting the Field Office Supervisor, (see address above) or by
calling (602) 242-0210. 

* SDCP Steering Committee Update and Upcoming Meetings
The SDCP citizen’s Steering Committee continues to discuss issues in
the hope of coming to consensus regarding a "preferred alternative",
scheduled to be given to the Board of Supervisors by the first of

Upcoming SDCP Steering Committee Meetings:
Wednesday, January 8, 6-9pm, Public Works Bldg., Basement Rm. C, 201
N. Stone Ave.
Wednesday, January 22, 6-9pm, Public Works Bldg., Basement Rm. C,
201 N. Stone Ave.
All meetings are open to the public. Please refer to our website at for a complete schedule. 

* Open Space Bond Update
The Friends of the Sonoran Desert, the organization that formed to
promote a new county Open Space Bond, is working to get a written
commitment from the Board of Supervisors to schedule an election in
2003 for at least $200 million. The Friends is working to obtain a
firm commitment from the Board that they will follow through on this
important step in implementing the SDCP. Between now and November,
when the election will most likely be held, the Friends will be
working on their community and business outreach campaigns to
encourage citizens in Pima County to approve the bond in the
November election. Contact Kate Hiller, Campaign Coordinator, for
more information at 623-5736. 

* Help to Make this New Year a Happy One for the Sonoran Desert!!
Happy New Year! Help make it a good one for the Sonoran Desert by
being vocal about your support for the SDCP. Here are a few ways to
spread the word:

Write letters to the local newspapers (there was just a special
section on the SDCP in December that you could respond to); take the
opportunity to speak out at public meetings; talk to your family,
neighbors, and friends; or volunteer to give a presentation to a
group you’re involved with�we’d be happy to help you prepare for
it!! Or, if you’re not comfortable giving a presentation yourself,
invite us to give one at the next meeting! 

* Fundraising News

** Thank You! Many of you graciously remembered the Coalition as you
made your year-end contributions to the organizations you love; we
are honored that you included us. In addition, almost 30 new
individuals joined in supporting the Coalition for the first time.

**As the year-end gifts continue to come in we want to again remind
those of you who have not given that the Coalition still needs your
support � we need to raise an additional $50,000 in the next five
months to meet our budget and program goals! Please send
contributions to Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, 300 E.
University Blvd., Ste. 120, Tucson, AZ 85705. Thank You!

**We also welcome gifts of stock. If you are interested in making
such a gift, please contact Kevin Gaither-Banchoff at (520) 869-4673.

Susan Shobe
Assistant Director
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection
300 E. University Blvd., #120
Tucson, AZ 85705
(520) 388-9925