Friends of the Desert #17

Friends of the Desert
E-News Issue #17
February 21, 2003
*A project of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection*
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* Pygmy-owl Recovery Plan 
* Comment Deadline Extended on Proposed Critical Habitat Designation 
* SDCP Steering Committee Update and Upcoming Meetings 
* How You Can Help 

* US Fish and Wildlife Service Documents on the Pygmy-owl
On January 9, 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a
draft recovery plan for the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl that
recommends strategies for conserving the endangered bird that was
once common in southern-to-central Arizona. Comments on the plan
will be accepted until April 9.

The release of the recovery plan occurred shortly after the Service
released the draft critical habitat designation (see below for more
information.) The public comment periods for the two separate but
related documents overlap.

The draft recovery plan identifies criteria for moving the owl from
endangered to threatened status and will be effective for five
years. In the plan, all currently known pygmy-owls in Arizona and
the habitat they occupy (since 1993, when formalized surveys began)
would be protected. It also calls for identifying and maintaining
two interconnected systems of habitat; one extending from areas
occupied by the pygmy-owls in Mexico to the northern edge of the
historical range near Phoenix, and the other from the Mexican border
at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument into rural southwestern
Maricopa and Pinal counties.

Historically, the owl was reported as common in Arizona cottonwood-
mesquite forests along southern and central Arizona rivers and
washes. Loss of these forests and woodlands over the last 100
years, together with a lack of regulatory protection and the rapid
development of dense Sonoran scrub land now utilized by remaining
owls, lead to the endangerment of the population. Arizona surveys
documented 41 adult pygmy-owls in 1999, 34 adults in 2000, 36 in
2001, and 18 in 2002.

The Service seeks public review and comments on the draft recovery
plan through April 9. The draft plan and related photos and maps
are available on the Internet at
Requests for the draft plan and comments should be submitted to
Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Office,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite
103, Phoenix, Arizona 85201, by mail, fax (602-242-2513) or email at

* Comment Deadline Extended on Proposed Critical Habitat Designation
The US Fish and Wildlife Service released the new draft proposal for
critical habitat designation for the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl on
November 26, 2002 (please see Issues #15 and #16 for more details
about the proposal.) There was a recent public hearing on the
subject�a BIG THANKS to all of you who came and spoke in support of
strong protections for the owl. Originally, the public comment
deadline was February 25, 2003, however, due to a recent ruling on a
lawsuit from the National Homebuilders’ Association, which will
result in the release of the exact locations of owls’ nests, the
public comment deadline has been extended to April 25, 2003.

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
April 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 is making progress, and has
added additional meetings in March to, hopefully, wrap up the final
details of the "preferred alternative" to be given to the Board of

Upcoming SDCP Steering Committee Meetings:
Wednesday, February 26, 6:00 -9:00pm, Public Works Bldg., Basement
Rm. C, 201 N. Stone Ave
Saturday, March 1, 8:30-11:30am, Public Works Bldg., Basement Rm. C,
201 N. Stone Ave.
Wednesday, March 5, 6:00-9:00pm, Public Works Bldg., Basement Rm. C,
201 N. Stone Ave.
All meetings are open to the public.

The March 5 meeting will be held only if the Steering Committee does
not reach consensus on a "preferred alternative." The Steering
Committee will meet a final time in early April to vote on the final
draft to be submitted to the Board. 

* Open Space Bond Update
The Friends of the Sonoran Desert, the organization that re-joined
to promote a new county Open Space Bond, is working to get a written
commitment from the Board of Supervisors to schedule an election for
November for at least $200 million. The Friends need a firm
commitment from the Board that they will follow through on this
important step in implementing the SDCP. Between now and November,
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 481-5736. 

* How You Can Help
Want to help protect the Sonoran Desert? Spread the word throughout
the community about the importance of the SDCP! Not only will this
inform folks who may not know about the plan, it will remind
decision-makers and the general public how much the Coalition’s work
is grounded in "grassroots" community support. Here are a couple of
ways you can do this: 

* Write letters to the local newspapers (there are frequently
articles about the SDCP or conservation that need responses) 
* Write an article on the SDCP for newsletters of groups to
which you belong 
* Attend and speak out at public meetings 
* Talk to your family, neighbors, and friends 
* 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! 
* Donate your time or money to the Coalition (all donations
are tax deductible!) 
* And, VERY IMPORTANTLY, call your elected member on the Pima
County Board of Supervisors and let her/him know how important the
Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is to you and the community.

And a HUGE thanks to all of you who are already doing these things!
Community support is key to the success of the plan, and we couldn’t
have gotten this far without your help. Thanks for making the
effort (we know it really is an effort these days!) for our
beautiful and unique desert home, and all of its current and future

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