Pima County adds 374 acres in Critical Wildlife Linkage

Due to the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan’s “Off-Site Mitigation” option for property going through Pima County’s rezoning process, hundreds of acres have been obtained in fee by Pima County for the purposes of managing and maintaining the land as perpetual open space.

One of the key elements of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is protecting open space as parcels located in biologically-sensitive areas go through the rezoning process. In most cases, the property owner opts to set aside a large percentage of land on their parcel and develop just a small portion. One lesser-used option allows for the property owner to acquire and preserve land in the same area and habitat-type. The SDCP also allows a combination of both options.

In the county’s most recent Comprehensive Land Use Update (referred to as Pima Prospers), language was added to define this “off-site mitigation” option:

The following guidelines apply to properties being considered for off-site mitigation:

a.The location of off-site mitigation properties should be within the same general geographic region of the original project site;

b. Off-site mitigation property should provide the same or better resource values as the original project site including, but not limited to:

1.CLS designations inclusive of 2004 Conservation Bond Habitat Protection Priority designations or subsequent conservation bond programs;

2.Vegetation community type (s);

3.Habitat values for applicable CLS Special Species (e.g., breeding, dispersal);

4.Surface water or unique landforms such as rock outcrops;

5.Contribution to landscape connectivity; and

6.Demonstration that the resource and conservation values of the off-site mitigation property will be protected in perpetuity.

c. Off-site mitigation of IRA may include the purchase and transfer of water rights that directly impact and/or support groundwater dependent ecosystems.

Last year, three parcels in the biologically-sensitive Tortolita Fan were rezoned by RedPoint Development, Inc. These parcels total 65.78 acres, and on-site preserved as open space totaled 26 acres. As such, there was a need to find additional land to “mitigate” the disturbance. This is where the option to mitigate off the site can be used as an option to “make up for” loss of habitat on the site. For every 1 acre disturbed, 4 acres need to be acquired off-site for permanent protection as open space.

The Coalition argued strenuously that these guidelines be applied fully. The ironwood habitat of the Tortolita Fan is not only biologically-rich but we are losing much of it to development in the towns of Marana and Oro Valley and in unincorporated Pima County.

In the end, a rezoning condition was adopted by the Board of Supervisors for the developed parcels and the owner deeded Pima County 374 acres for permanent protection. Our Tucson-Tortolita mountains wildlife linkage is now another step closer to reality!

Thanks to all of you who came out to support this action at both the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Supervisors hearings!




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