Friends of the Desert #23

Friends of the Desert
E-News Issue #23
June 16, 2004
*A project of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection in Pima
County, Arizona*

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* ACTION ALERT! Help Stop Bad Land Deal!
* Open Space Bond Successful on May 18th! 
* Next Steps for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan 
* In Time For Summer: New Stock of Coalition T-Shirts!

* ACTION ALERT! Help Stop Bad Land Deal!


A Joint Study Session of the Arizona State Legislature is currently
holding meetings to gather public input and discuss a package that
would amend the Arizona State Constitution to allow conservation of
some State Trust Lands and change the way they are managed, planned,
and released. The current package is a result of negotiations by
educators, developers, cattlegrowers, and conservationists held over
the past several years.

While the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection supports the
concept of State Trust Land reform, the package that has been
drafted will protect merely 300,000 acres (with the potential to
acquire at full value an additional 400,000) at the expense of more
than 8 million acres.


This 30-plus page constitutional amendment and session law is a bad
deal for Arizona. 

* It authorizes land swaps =96 something voters have rejected in
various forms on five previous occasions. The public often gets
ripped off in these swaps, and these trades promote even more urban
sprawl. The lands that will become state trust lands in the swap
will generally be our public lands on the urban fringe. Those will
then likely be developed. 

* It guts an important Arizona Supreme Court decision and
removes competition from the livestock grazing leases. Just over
two years ago the Arizona Supreme Court directed the land department
to at least consider grazing lease applications from conservation
interests. They also went on to recognize "restoration and
preservation" as legitimate uses of the land. This proposed
constitutional amendment significantly undercuts these provisions. 

* It allows for disposition of land for non-monetary
consideration, less than full consideration, and for less than true
value, in several areas. It allows disposal of rights-of-way
for "consideration other than true value," which could result in a
giveaway to big utilities. It allows the State Land Department to
dispose of certain existing road rights-of-way without "further
consideration." Are we going to benefit the Arizona Department of
Transportation at the expense of Arizona’s schools? 

* While there is some land conserved (3% for conservation and
up to about 7% for option) in the proposal, the definition of
conservation is weak and is not included in the constitutional
amendment. "Conservation" is defined in the session law
as "restricting land against vertical development and managing the
land to protect the characteristics that led to the designation of
the land as conservation lands, conservation option lands or as land
suitable for conservation." Vertical development generally means
structures , but does not include existing structures or
other "improvements" nor does it include utility lines, roads,
canals, communications facilities, etc. There is a lot of damage
you can do to the land and a lot that can harm the conservation
values short of a subdivision. Power transmission lines, roads, and
cell phone towers are not in most people’s definition
of "conservation." This is pretty weak conservation at best.

The measure is being promoted by development interests, the
livestock industry, education interests, and a few conservation
interests. Although this package is being promoted as a "consensus"
package, don’t be fooled. With Maricopa Audubon Society, Sierra
Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, Arizona Center for Law in the Public
Interest, Center for Biological Diversity, White Mountain
Conservation League, Tucson Audubon Society, Forest Guardians, Yuma
Audubon Society, Western Land Exchange Project, The Wildlands
Project, Coalition for the Sonoran Desert Protection, Defenders of
Wildlife, Sonoran Audubon Society, Huachuca Audubon Society,
Northern Arizona Audubon Society, McDowell Park Association, and
Desert Watch against the proposal and a select few conservation
organizations for it, consensus has not been reached.

The Joint Study Session is NOW considering whether to holding a
special session to jam through the faulty package=97and we need your
help to stop this from happening. Your calls and letters will help
make a huge difference.

Please contact the Governor and your legislators RIGHT AWAY and urge
them not to support a special session on State Trust Lands and not
to support this proposed reform package.

In addition to contacting the Governor and your legislators, you
might also try your city council members, county supervisors, and
other elected officials. Let them know that you think this is a bad
land deal for Arizona, and that this issue is too important and far
too complicated to try and jam through at the end of a long session
or to try and pass quickly in a special session. Please urge them
to reject this proposal and to instead work out a true consensus
package on State Trust Lands.

To reach the Governor, call 602-542-4331 or toll free 1-800-253-
0883, or fax her at 602-542-1381. To email her, go to To find and
email your legislators, go to You can call your
legislator’s office toll free at 1-800-352-8404. Correspondence
goes to 1700 W. Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007-2890. For more
information on this legislation go to .

For more information on this proposal, please contact Sandy Bahr at
(602) 253-8633 or

Thanks you for taking the time to contact your elected officials.
It does make a difference.

=95 Open Space Bond Successful on May 18th!
Over the last 6 years, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection
has participated in the development of Pima County’s Sonoran Desert
Conservation Plan (SDCP)=97including providing significant support to
help ensure passage of the Open Space Bond.

On May 18th in the Pima County Bond Election, nearly 66% of voters
voted YES on the Open Space Bond =96 an overwhelming victory! Of the
$174.3 million dollars provided through this bond, at least $112
million will go to protect lands identified as the most important
for the health of our Sonoran Desert ecosystem through the SDCP
science process. The passage of this bond is a landmark victory for
Pima County=97THANK YOU to all of you who helped!

(Visit for the full
results of all 6 questions.)

The Coalition will continue to promote the conservation goals of the
SDCP by participating in the implementation of these bonds through
the Conservation Acquisition Commission and the Bond Advisory
Committee, established by Pima County to give recommendations to the
Board of Supervisors on the spending of bond funds.

* Next Steps for the SDCP
The passage of the Open Space Bond was an important step for the
Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. But, as Carolyn Campbell,
Executive Director for the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection,
describes in her May 22, 2004 guest editorial to the Arizona Daily
Star, it is only one of the components necessary to ensure that our
Sonoran Desert home thrives as our community grows into the future,
and there is much work to be done before the SDCP is finalized over
the next year.

As excerpted from the full editorial, which can be viewed at, for a truly
effective multi-species plan, Pima County should: 

* Outline specific conservation goals for each species to
ensure that the plan actually benefits each plant and animal
addressed by the plan. These goals and objectives should be based
on the current status of each species, including how rare it is and
what the current threats are.
=95 Protect the most important lands, incorporating information
developed by the science technical advisory team and conserving the
most biologically valuable lands in the county. Several different
tools can be used to conserve these lands, including acquisition,
voluntary incentives and improved and streamlined land-use
regulations. Mitigation "banks," which consist of high-value lands
purchased by the county or others, can also be purchased from to
offset development occurring on other lands with similar biological
* Manage and monitor conserved land to ensure the long-term
protection of the most important lands, species and habitats. 
* Provide ensured funding to carry out the conservation plan’s
goals and objectives. While there are a variety of funding
mechanisms, the burden of funding the plan should be shared by all
beneficiaries, including the local public enjoying the open space,
property owners and others who benefit from the expedited permits
and taxpayers nationwide who support endangered species
=95 Allow for periodic independent review of the multi-species
plan’s progress to ensure sound science and the opportunity for
public review.

You can read more about the Coalition’s recommendations for the SDCP
on our website at For a detailed description
of these essential elements, please see the draft Community Vision
document. For more technical recommendations, please refer to our
comments on Pima County’s draft Multiple Species Conservation Plan
(MSCP)=97the part of the SDCP that details Pima County’s conservation
commitments as part of Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 10

The Coalition will continue to advocate for the inclusion of these
components through our participation in the recently-formed MSCP
Implementation Committee, assembled by Pima County to finalize the
ESA Section 10 requirements of the SDCP over the next year, and to
monitor progress and give recommendations throughout the
implementation of the plan.

* In Time For Summer: New Stock of Coalition T-Shirts
The Coalition has a full stock of our short-sleeved, organic cotton
T-shirts. With our logo on the front and a beautiful picture of a
mountain lion and words of wisdom from Tucson’s own Chuck Bowden on
the back, they are a comfortable and eye-catchin’ way to show that
you care about our Sonoran Desert home and support the Coalition’s
efforts to protect it. Only $12.00, available in sizes S-XL.
Download our online order form at, or call the
Coalition office at (520) 388-9925 to order yours today!

Until next time!

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