Open space in trouble, but you can make a difference!

What would our beautiful Sonoran Desert home be like without the wild, open spaces we explore and treasure? It would certainly not be the same place we all know and love. Open spaces are so important to connect wildlife corridors, preserve important habitat, and protect ecologically rich areas.

Photo courtesy of Pima County

Bond funds have been important to protect areas like Tortolita Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Pima County

Open space bond funds have been crucial for Pima County to acquire important open space. Over the past few decades, approximately 78,000 acres of land have been purchased for conservation from these funds, and voters have long showed overwhelming support for open space acquisition.  Pima County voters approved $174 million for open space in 2004 (along with $28 million in 1997), and in a recent 2013 survey, participants chose open space as a top priority for bond money allocation.

The Conservation Acquisition Commission, a citizens advisory committee responsible for recommending open space purchases, suggested that $285 million be allocated for open space in the upcoming 2015 bond election. $2.8 billion worth of land is actually eligible for purchase!  However, the Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) has currently allocated $120 million for this purpose. And now, this funding is in danger of being reduced!

The BAC is going to decide on a final open space allocation on November 7th and the current allotment of $120 million might be reduced. Open space makes residents healthier by providing recreational opportunities. It promotes clean air, provides ecosystem services (like flood control), and reduces stress. Plus, it’s great for our local economy! In 2011, watchable wildlife activities (such as birding) contributed $1.4 billion to Arizona’s economy. Last year, visitors to Saguaro National Park contributed $41 million to the local economy. People travel from all over the world to see what the Sonoran Desert has to offer, and more open space means more economic benefit!

Our work at the Coalition is focused on the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP), which is rooted in the Endangered Species Act. Pima County’s agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service mandates mitigation for impacts of all future development by permanently protecting important habitat. These commitments cannot be fulfilled without adequate funding for open space.

You can make a difference! The County’s bond committee needs to know that the community supports open space purchases. A new fully-funded bond package is needed to protect important biologically-rich habitat that otherwise would get developed. Eligible properties include expansions to Tortolita Mountain Park, riparian habitat along the San Pedro River, lands needed to allow for wildlife movement between protected preserves, Davidson Creek, Agua Caliente/Tanque Verde confluence, Marley Ranch (phases II and III), and the Rosemont Ranch. We need you to attend the November 7th meeting and write a letter to the bond committee (details below).

Open space protects habitat for vulnerable species like the lesser long nosed bat. Coutesy of USFWS

Open space protects habitat for vulnerable species like the lesser long nosed bat. Coutesy of USFWS

Please write a letter or email to the BAC before November 7th and let them know just how important open space is and why there needs to be a bond package as fully funded as possible. Tell the BAC the benefits of open space and that Pima County residents hold it as a top priority. The BAC needs to know the long term benefits of open space as well as the positive economic impact. Please address you letter to:

Pima County Bond Advisory Committee
c/o Mr. Larry Hecker, Chair
130 W Congress St., 10th Floor
Tucson, AZ 85701

You can also email your letter to:

Talking Points Include:

  • Open space supports a high quality of life and provides opportunities for recreation, which is a top attraction for both residents and visitors.
  • Open space is good economics. Last year, visitors to Saguaro National Park alone contributed $41 million to the local economy, and in 2011 “watchable wildlife” activities brought in hundreds of millions of dollars to Pima County in retail sales and salaries (
  • Open space is a lasting investment and protects unique Sonoran Desert plant and animal species.
  • Open space is a necessary balance to future development, and protecting more open space around metropolitan Tucson promotes infill development.

We have been working closely with strong supporter of open space, Supervisor Elias, for a healthy open space bond. Please read his letter in support and for even more talking points.

Want to do even more? We need you to come to the November 7th BAC meeting and help pack the hall in support of open space. We are not requesting that you speak, but rather create a strong message with your presence. At some point in the meeting, we will ask you to stand to show that you are in favor of a fully-funded open space bond. The more people who are in the room, the more of an impact this will have! We need numbers to demonstrate to the BAC that there is strong community support for open space and that we support the $120 million allocation.

Where: The Riverpark Inn (350 S. Freeway)

When: November 7th, 9am (the meeting starts at 8am, but open space will be discussed at 9am)

Please show your support for open space. Citizen involvement and your voice are vital for creating a future with more open space. We urge you to write a letter and attend the BAC meeting on November 7th. Please tell other supporters of open space about this pressing issue and how they can make a positive impact. Thank you for helping us speak up for the Sonoran Desert!

Click here to view a map of open space acquisition priorities.

Click here to read the Coalition’s letter to the BAC in March supporting open space.

Click here for a fact sheet about the economic benefits of open space.

Click here for an infographic with important open space bond information.

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