Friends of the Desert #30


In This Issue:
" Feature Article: Carnivores and Highways Conference in Tucson
" Updates: The 508; Critical Wildlife Connections; Pygmy Owl Public Hearing
" Open Space Acquisitions
" Conservation in Marana
" CSDP in Defenders Magazine

" Carnivores and Highways Conference
Please join the Southwest Carnivore Committee at the 2005 Carnivores and Highways Conference on December 6th and 7th at the Hotel Arizona, located at the old Radisson. The conference is sponsored by the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Defenders of Wildlife, Sky Island Alliance, Wildlands Project, Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, Pima County, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and New Mexico Game & Fish. The goals of the SW Carnivore Committee are to: 1) Facilitate communication among interested parties and reduce risks of species decline or extinction; 2) provide a mechanism where current information regarding carnivore ecology, distribution, and research techniques can be readily accessed; and 3) develop a forum in which conservation strategies can be discussed and technical assistance provided.

There will also be a half-day field trip, on the morning of Thursday, December 8th, to the Cienegas Creek Natural Preserve. This 3,979-acre preserve, located east of Tucson, was established to preserve and protect its natural and scenic resources. The preserve is an integral part of the larger Cienegas Creek Wildlife Linkage. The county has recently added to this linkage with the purchase of the Davidson Canyon property using 2004 bond funds. If you would like to attend the field trip please indicate it on the registration form.

Registration fees are $55 for general admission and $25 for students. Visit for further information and to register and make your check payable to the "Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project" and send to 1536 Wynkoop Street,, Suite 309, Denver, CO 80202. ATTN: SW CARNIVORE.

The Hotel Arizona is located downtown at 181 W. Broadway Blvd.

" Updates
o Furnace Creek 508
In October, Sky Island Alliance Biologist Sergio Avilla and long time Coalition supporter Bruce Gungle set out to complete a 508 mile bike race through southern California as a fundraiser for the Coalition. Bruce and Sergio along with their support crew Cory Jones of Sky Island Alliance and Sean Sullivan of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, together known as Team Coonhound, tackled this champion of endurance bike races and completed it in less than 36 hours. Good job Coonhounds! The going was tough, but they pulled through. Team Coonhound was able to raise around $3,000 for the Coalition through pledges per mile and flat donations. Updates were sent out during the race to those who signed up for them. Those updates, pictures from the race, and summaries written by Bruce and Sergio will be on our website shortly, at You can also find additional information on the Furnace Creek 508 official web cast at Thanks, to all who supported the riders and the Coalition.

o Critical Wildlife Connection Funding
The Regional Transportation Authority Citizen’s Advisory Committee and the RTA Board, compromised of jurisdictional representatives in Pima County, approved an additional $20 million dollars for Critical Wildlife Connections for a total of $45 million, to be included in the transportation plan funded by a ½ cent sales tax. The entire plan will now go before the individual jurisdiction for approval by late November. If it is approved by all jurisdictions involved, the RTA plan will go before Pima County voters in 2006.

The Coalition supports the $45 million funding for Critical Wildlife Connections. We would like to thank those of you who sent in your comments showing support for increasing the funding for this category. There were a good number of comments that came in. These Connections are an integral part of the regional conservation planning we are striving for in Pima County.

To see a video, produced by the Humane Society, about the importance of maintaining and restoring wildlife connections click

o Pygmy Owl Public Hearing
Thanks to all who attended the September 20 public hearing on the federal government’s proposal to remove protections for the critically endangered pygmy-owl. The community’s overwhelming disapproval of the proposal was on full display at the hearing, with over 25 speakers expressing their strong opposition to the politically charged plan. Only two people spoke in favor of the proposal, and it is worth noting that both – a lawyer for the Homebuilders’ lobby, and a paid development consultant – are employed by the industry seeking the owl’s removal from the endangered species list. It is now up to the federal government to decide whether this imperiled bird, which now numbers less than 20 in the US, should continue to be listed as endangered. The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to make a final decision before the end of the year.


" Open Space Acquisitions
In May 2004, Voters in Pima County overwhelmingly approved $174.3 in bond funds to preserve open spaces in Pima County. Open space acquisitions are an important aspect of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Although there is still work to be done to finalize the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, the county has begun the preservation of open space through land acquisitions in order to protect wildlife habitat, scenic landscapes, riparian areas, and water quality.

Since May 2004, Pima County has purchased over 21,000 acres of private land and now holds leases on 75,000 acres of State Trust Land. The County has purchased nearly 20 properties in many different areas of Pima County. The purchase of these lands will help the county meet the conservation goals of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The lands that are protected through acquisition will be included into the preserve that the county hopes to create in order to protect the habitats of the species protected under the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and to ensure that patches of habitat do not become isolated form other areas, by maintaining landscape connectivity.

A key purchase to provide landscape connectivity was the Davidson Canyon property, which consists of 1,763 acres of private land and 12,674 acres of State Trust Land leases. This property is adjacent to Pima County’s Las Cienegas Creek Natural Preserve. Davidson Canyon provides a vital wildlife connection underneath 1-10, allowing safe north-south travel for animals between the Rincon Mountains down to Las Cienegas Creek National Conservation Area and over to the Santa Rita, Whetstone, and Empire Mountains. Tracking surveys, done by Sky Island Alliance, have revealed the presence of mountain lion, black bear, coati, and bobcat along Davidson Canyon within the existing Pima County Natural Preserve.

We applaud the county’s efforts to preserve biologically rich open spaces, but would like to see the county focus their efforts on the acquisition of lands in the Tortolita Fan, which is northwest of the Tucson metro area. The northwest is the most critical area for protection of the endangered cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl and deserves a higher priority. This area is also severely threatened by development. If the county does not act in a timely manner, important land may be lost to development.

To learn about more individual purchases, please go to to view the Friends of the Sonoran Desert newsletter.

" Marana Development Issues
As you know, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, works throughout Pima County to protect our natural environment. One of the jurisdictions that we are working with is in the Town of Marana. We need your help to protect the natural resources found within Marana!

Marana has begun work on an ordinance that would protect riparian areas found in the Tortolita Fan area, found east of 1-10 and south and west of the Tortolita Mountains. The Tortolita Fan Overlay Zone Ordinance Draft currently states that 70% of all developments need to be set aside as open space. Riparian areas will receive the highest level of protection and would have a 100% set aside. Adjacent uplands and other important lands will have less protection since the ordinance does not currently state that open space needs to be set aside in a contiguous manner to ensure that the landscape does not become fragmented, as will happen with the current draft ordinance. If the ordinance were to pass as it is written developers would be able to count the backyards of individual lots as open space. We would like to see the town include measures to set aside chunks of land when complying with the set aside percentage.

This is a very positive step for Marana to take. We would like to show the Town that there are residents that would support stronger conservation measures in this ordinance and would like it to be approved and implemented as soon as possible. Marana officials need to know that there is support for conservation.

If you are a resident of Marana or are just interested in what is going on in the northwest area, please join us for a discussion about how you can make a positive impact in Marana on
Tuesday, November 29 at the Mason Audubon Center.

Please join us for a short talk and refreshments:
Date: Tuesday, November 29
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mason Audubon Center
8751 N. Thornydale (on the south west corner of Thornydale & Hardy)
Please park on hardy; contact Sean Sullivan with any questions: or 250-9040

" CSDP in Defenders Magazine
The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) and the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection has been featured in the Defenders of Wildlife national magazine in an article entitled, "Growing in the Right Direction". The article illustrates the importance of landscape connectivity, open space land acquisitions, and community support in order to ensure that we are able to protect what makes Pima County a special place to live. You can find the article in the Fall 2005 edition of Defenders Magazine, or at

Thanks for your generous support. If you can make an extra donation it would greatly help our upcoming work. Please visit donate.