Catalina State Park Threatened by Desert Springs Development

Catalina State Park is a healthy, biologically diverse, active, functional protected area.

THANK YOU! Thank you so much for all your efforts in the last few months, speaking up for wildlife and wildlife habitat in and around Catalina State Park. On December 5th, the Oro Valley Mayor and Council decided to delay action on the Desert Springs General Plan amendment. In their decision, the councilmembers clearly told the property owner that they needed to return with a proposal that reduces the density of homes and that incorporates a buffer along the park boundary, two of the key issues the Coalition has been advocating for. We are also hopeful that appropriate open space set-aside requirements will be incorporated into any revised proposal.

We all have more work in front of us and we need to carry on with the momentum from the December 5th meeting. The Town Council needs to continue to hear about the importance of protecting the natural resources of the park. If you haven’t already, please contact the Oro Valley Town Council and voice your concerns about this proposal. They can be reached at 520-229-4714 or by email at

This issue will be back before the Town Council in the near future. We hope that you will continue to be engaged on this important issue and we will keep you posted on news and developments as they happen.

The Town of Oro Valley needs to hear from our community about the importance of the lands adjacent to Catalina State Park, the keystone piece of the larger wildlife linkage between the Santa Catalina and Tortolita Mountains.

Read our December 4, 2012 letter to the Town Council.

Read our October 15, 2012 comment letter Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Coalition does not support the Desert Springs as currently proposed. However, we also have concerns about how the property could be developed under current zoning – this could also be detrimental to wildlife needs. We are working hard to ensure that whatever development plan is ultimately approved, that it is appropriately configured for wildlife needs, and includes conditions to protect Catalina State Park, the wildlife, and our dark skies.

Here are a few talking points to help you get started:

  • Catalina State Park needs to be appropriately buffered from development in order to preserve important wildlife habitat AND recreational opportunities for people.
  • The proposed Desert Springs development sits squarely within a Critical Landscape Connection, or wildlife linkage, of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Local policies state that land use changes in these areas should protect existing wildlife linkages, and that “high priority shall be given to identifying, preserving and re-establishing the connections between native biological communities especially where natural connectivity is most constrained.”
  • The proposed Desert Springs development is in Pima County’s Conservation Lands System (the land is currently in unincorporated Pima County). Both Important Riparian Areas and Biological Core Management Areas are found on this site. If these two designations were applied to Oro Valley’s rules and guidelines, this project would be required to have at least 80% open space.
  • The proposed Desert Springs development is in close proximity to three soon-to-be-built wildlife crossings along Oracle Road – this area is “most constrained.” Minimal night-time light, buffered open space, and fencing to funnel animals to the crossings are all critical elements that will lead to their success.
  • The Coalition recently launched a volunteer-driven remote wildlife camera monitoring project in the Santa Catalina – Tortolita Mountains wildlife linkage. Three of our cameras are currently located in Catalina State Park and they have documented at least 17 species of wildlife, including mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, javelina, badger, deer, skunk, and other small mammals and birds. We know that Catalina State Park is a healthy, biologically diverse, active, functional protected area that plays an integral part in the functioning of the larger wildlife linkage between the Santa Catalina and Tortolita Mountains.

Thank you so much for your continued efforts to protect our wonderful and unique Sonoran Desert! And if you have any questions, please let us know!