Quail Canyon and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) is Pima County’s blueprint for growth, with biologically-important lands identified by local biologists who convened as the Science Technical Advisory Team. In 2001, the Pima County Board of Supervisors adopted the SDCP and updated the Pima County Comprehensive Land Use Plan based on the science team’s biological map, integrating the land-use policies and principles of conservation. This biological map is named the Maeveen Marie Behan Conservation Lands System, or CLS. The CLS identifies lands necessary to achieve SDCP biological goals, while delineating areas suitable for development.

The Coalition has been diligent in advocating for the full implementation of these policies and ensuring that proposed developments in the CLS avoid the mapped biologically important habitat. Along with advocating for large open space purchases by Pima County and other local governments, the Coalition advises private property owners on how to best configure development to protect open space in their projects. We work directly with private property owners as they develop their projects and advocate for connected open space that protects riparian areas and wildlife linkages and fully complies with Pima County’s CLS policies.

For example, our latest effort involved what is called Quail Canyon. The Quail Canyon Specific Plan was submitted to Pima County in the summer of 2022. This property was formerly a small golf course located in and around the Pima Wash, which runs fairly unimpeded from Pima Canyon in the Catalina Mountains to the Rillito River. This development proposed to build a housing development on the site of the now-defunct golf course, located east of Oracle Road and south of Rudasill Road.

Coalition staff met with the property representatives for close to a year. The entirety of the Pima Wash will be protected as open spaces, with additional revegetation with native plants occurring in the portions that were previously degraded by the golf development.

More recently, due to issues of climate change and severe water shortage, the Coalition has worked with developers to commit to, through the entitlement process, water conservation and sustainable development measures. In the Quail Canyon rezoning, some of these measures include:

  • Low water use, drought-tolerant or native vegetation (xeriscapes) with the exception of local food production;
  • Drip irrigation;
  • Increase use of reclaimed water and rainwater harvesting;
  • Low Impact Development (LID) principles such as preserving and re-creating natural landscape features and minimizing effective imperviousness to create functional and appealing site drainage that treat stormwater as a resource rather than a waste product where applicable and feasible.
  • Reduce indoor water use by installing water-efficient fixtures
  • Increase building energy efficiency by encouraging active and passive solar methods of construction                                                                                     
  • High-efficiency LED lighting 
  • High SEER air conditioning 
  • Low-water-use, WaterSense plumbing 
  • Rainwater to be directed to landscape areas for plantings and recharge back into the ground
  • Landscaping featuring low-water-use vegetation and an abundance of shade
  • Use of pervious hardscape and porous paving systems
  • Covered parking areas located within the North Parcel development, with some covered parking incorporating solar panels to generate power for the project, where feasible.
  • Electric vehicle (“EV”) charging stations provided and additional EV Ready provided to allow for easier charging station conversions in the future.
  • Mitigate urban heat island effect by reducing paved areas, increasing shade and applying other methods, where practical.
  • The Project will employ numerous strategies for mitigating the urban heat island effect, including:
    • Significant portion of the Property to remain natural open space 
    • Building orientation to take advantage of solar 
    • Incorporation of shade trees into the landscaping and near parking 
    • Use of pervious hardscape and porous paving systems
    • Covered parking areas located within the North Parcel development 
  • All landscape palettes shall be created with the goal of encouraging pollinators and providing habitat for desert fauna.
  • Ensure full compliance with the Outdoor Lighting Code, including the following:
    • Utilize LEDs with a correlated color temperature of 3000K or less in order to reduce light impacts on nearby wildlife 
    • Reduce artificial light at night, preventing light spillover into the adjacent properties.
  • Revegetate areas of Pima Wash disturbed by Golf Course and adjacent Natural Open Space
  • Provide buffering for the wildlife corridors from residential areas using following techniques:
    • Construct gabion bank protection on Pima Wash will be vertical or near vertical to limit wildlife from entering development.
    • Discourage pedestrian entry into wash by having no designated wash entry points. In those areas where there is potential physical access into Pima Wash, install signage providing notice that wash entry is not allowed, such as “Natural Wildlife Area – Wash Access Prohibited.”

If you have any questions about our work advocating for open space acquisitions or open space in private development projects, please let us know! And thank you for supporting a protected and connected open space preserve system in Pima County!

Tags: , , , , ,