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Friends of the Desert #41

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View our new newsprint format here, Friends of the Desert #41.

If you would like to receive a hardcopy of our newsletter sign up on the left hand side of your screen, or contact the Coalition office at 520-388-9925.


SR 77 Public Input

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Voice Your Support for the SR 77 Wildlife Crossing Structures!

Public Meeting Invitation | Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | 5:30pm- 7:30pm | Presentation at 5:45pm
Vista de la Montana United Methodist Church | 3001 E Miravista Lane, Tucson, AZ 85739

It has now been over a year since the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Board approved $8.2 million in funding for two underpasses and one overpass along Oracle Road specifically designed and dedicated for wildlife movement. The crossings will be the first of their kind in southern Arizona and the Coalition remains intimately involved with the continued planning for their construction. We hope this project will be a model for future wildlife crossings in southern Arizona and beyond. Your comments and suggestions are still needed about the Oracle Road project.
This comment form (click this text to download file), when completed, can be emailed directly to, mailed to 2560 N Tucson Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85716, or faxed to 520-327-4687.

These wildlife crossings will provide connectivity in the linkage area between the Tortolita and Catalina mountain ranges. Providing a safe road crossing point for deer, mountain lion, bobcat, javelina, fox, and coyote, among other wildlife, will help maintain a healthy ecosystem and protect our native species. You can help ensure that the crossings are a top-priority in this road project!

For more information on this project, visit:

SR77 Public Meeting Map

Protect Your Voice In Transmission Projects

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We need your help to protect local input on big power line projects like the interstate SunZia Southwest Transmission Project!  SunZia has hired a powerful lobbying firm to ram through SB 1517, which would threaten Arizonans’ power to be heard in local hearings on interstate power projects that would pass through our communities.  If this bill passes, by the time you learn of a major interstate transmission project coming through your community, it may be too late.  We can’t let this happen.

There are multiple potential routes the SunZia project could take through southern Arizona. These include routes that go north through the middle San Pedro River valley and south of the Aravaipa Wilderness. The Coalition has taken the position that the preferred route should follow already established rail, highway, and transmission line corridors, such as the Interstate 10 corridor. Regardless, the public should always be given the opportunity to provide input on major transmission projects like SunZia.

Please contact your legislator in the State House of Representatives and ask them to vote NO on SB 1517!
(see talking points below)

**We have tried to provide a general description of the location of each district. If you are unsure which legislative district you live in, please visit the following website and type in your address and zipcode in the top right corner:
Arizona Legislative District Finder

District 26 (Oro Valley, Marana, Catalina Foothills West)
Terri Proud,, 602-926-3398
Vic Williams,, 602-926-5839

District 27 (Tucson Mountains, West University)
Sally Ann Gonzales,, 602-926-3278
Macario Saldate IV,, 602-926-4171

District 28 (Central  and East Tucson)
Bruce Wheeler,, 602-926-3300
Steve Farley,, 602-926-3022 (Assistant Minority Leader)

District 29 (South and Southeast Tucson)
Matt Heinz,, 602-926-3424 (Minority Whip)
Daniel Patterson,, 602-926-5342

District 30 (Sahuarita, Green Valley, Vail, Catalina Foothills East
Ted Vogt,, 602-926-3235
Daniel M. Gowan Sr.,, 602-926-3312

Here are some ideas for what to say:

-This bill could cut local people and local communities out of the picture. We want our voices heard.
-This bill threatens rural property rights.
-We want to protect the state of Arizona’s full review of big transmission projects.
-We need a democratic, transparent process when reviewing transmission projects, not one that favors big-money lobbyists and backroom deals.

Remember, keep your emails short and sweet, but send them. Commenting on this bill is about protecting our right to have our voices heard about transmission projects in our communities!

County Purchases Sweetwater Canyon

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Read coverage of this story at the Arizona Daily Star.

Download the following letter in .pdf format.

February 25, 2011

Supervisor Sharon Bronson, District 3
Pima County Board of Supervisors
130 West Congress Street, 11th Floor
Tucson, Arizona 85701

RE: March 2, 2011 BOS Consent Agenda: Real Property, Resolution No. 2011-32

Dear Supervisor Bronson and Members of the Board,

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection supports the purchase of the 187-acre Sweetwater Canyon property. This parcel lies mostly within the Multiple Use Management Area of the MMB Conservation Lands System (CLS) and is directly adjacent to the county’s 700-acre Sweetwater Preserve.

The Sweetwater Preserve was purchased by the County in 2004. According to the County’s recent open space report1, the property “contains several major washes…including a key segment of Sweetwater Wash…[It also] provides suitable habitat for many species, including the lesser long-nosed bat, Gila monster, mule deer, Abert’s towhee, California leaf-nosed bat, mountain lion, and desert tortoise.” The Sweetwater Canyon property would provide an important extension to the Sweetwater Preserve, especially since it is crossed by the Sweetwater Wash and two small tributaries, providing valuable space for wildlife movement.

The Coalition also supports the recent letter submitted to the Board Supervisors by the Tucson Mountains Association about this property. This added acreage to the Sweetwater Preserve will increase the Preserve’s habitat value, and we encourage you to approve the Sweetwater Canyon purchase at your March 2, 2011 meeting. Thank you for considering our input.

Carolyn Campbell
Executive Director

Creating Safe Passages Brochure

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Want to learn more about why we need to protect the Sonoran Desert’s wildlife linkages? This brochure is a clear and concise primer of the what, where, and why of wildlife linkages, including detailed maps, compelling photos, and FAQs.

Pick one up today at the Coalition office or at other locations around southern Arizona! Packs of brochures are also available for wider distribution at events and meetings. Please call 520-388-9925 to request a packet for distribution.

You can also download a version of it here. 

Friends of the Desert #40

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View our new newsprint format here, Friends of the Desert #40.

If you would like to receive a hardcopy of our newsletter sign up on the left hand side of your screen, or contact the Coalition office at 520-388-9925.

Conserve to Enhance

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For Immediate Release

November 2nd, 2010

WMG Media Contact:
Lisa Shipek
(520) 396-3266

Pilot Program Will Enhance Desert Rivers through Individual Water Conservation
$500 – $1,000 Water Harvesting Subsidies Offered to Pilot Participants

This fall, Tucsonans can participate in a unique pilot program that links individual water conservation efforts with local river and stream enhancement. This program is known as Conserve to Enhance (C2E) and is the result of a collaboration between the Sonoran Institute, the UA Water Resources Research Center, and Watershed Management Group.

Forty-five pilot participants will receive a $500 to $1,000 subsidy to install water harvesting practices as the first step in the program. Those interested in participating in the pilot can apply online at until January 7th, 2010. People who want to save water and donate their savings, and don’t need the subsidy, can also apply and participate.

The C2E program works as follows: 1) participants install water conservation technologies at their home, 2) they track their monthly water bill savings in comparison to their historical use, and 3) they make quarterly donations to the C2E program based on their monthly savings.

Funds donated by participants will go directly to the environment to restore river and stream vegetation, create in-stream flows needed for a healthy ecosystem, invest in reclaimed water use, and increase groundwater levels. The funds generated by program participants are overseen by a community advisory board. The advisory board recently selected the Swan Wetlands and Atturbury Wash restoration projects as the beneficiaries to receive the funds generated through the pilot.

Pilot participants who receive the water harvesting subsidy will participate in Watershed Management Group’s Co-op program. The Co-op is based on the barn-raising model where members help each other install green practices under the guidance of a skilled instructor. Through the Co-op, members learn firsthand how to install water harvesting practices, such as cisterns, greywater systems, and rainwater catchment landscapes. The Co-op also ensures the cost of installing such practices is affordable, thanks to the volunteer labor of other members.

For more information or to apply to the C2E program, please visit or contact Lisa Shipek at or call 520-396-3266.

Prop 301 Overwhelmingly Rejected by AZ Voters!

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Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Sweep of Land Conservation Fund
Prop 301 Defeated 74-26, Reaffirming Open Space Support

Phoenix, AZ – On Election Day, Arizona voters again demonstrated their strong support for land conservation by overwhelming rejecting Proposition 301, a measure that would have allowed the legislature to raid the Land Conservation Fund and sweep it into the General Fund, where the Arizona Legislature would have determined how it would be used. 

“This is a great victory for land conservation and all of us who enjoy the amazing places that are protected with these funds,” said Carolyn Campbell, chair of the No on Prop 301 campaign and director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. “Defeat of Prop 301 also ensures that the land conservation dollars will continue to benefit our local communities as well as the education trust.”

The Land Conservation Fund was established by the voters in 1998 when we approved the Growing Smarter Act.  The dollars in this fund provide a match for communities to acquire state trust lands for conservation, including critical lands in Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan – Tumamoc Hill was acquired using these dollars – as well as lands in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Rogers Lake in Flagstaff, and more.

Legislators frequently think they know better than the voters and therefore should be able to defund, eviscerate, or otherwise dismantle voter-approved measures, including those for conservation,” said Sandy Bahr, the campaign treasurer and director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter.  “Arizona voters did not buy into the false choice presented by the Arizona Legislature and demonstrated strongly they meant what they said when they voted to establish the Land Conservation Fund."

Both Campbell and Bahr emphasized the need to adopt State Trust Land Reform as soon as possible.  “The voters have protected the funding; now we need to address the obstacles to conserving state lands in a more comprehensive manner,” said Campbell.  “We are refocusing our efforts on that now.”

The Land Conservation Fund sunsets at the end of this fiscal year, but the remaining dollars in the fund are available for communities that provide a match to conserve land.

Vote Yes on Prop 110

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Prop 110 provides a means to conserve Arizona lands and create open space buffers around military bases. Prop 110 amends the State Constitution to allow land exchanges of State Trust land with the federal government in order to protect military facilities and properly manage, protect, and use State Trust lands. All exchanges must be for properties of like value and undergo two independent appraisals, thus ensuring that no revenues are lost that would benefit the Trust’s beneficiaries. The exchanges also must be reviewed by the State Legislature and approved by the voters of Arizona.

Although the U.S. Congress amended the Enabling Act in 1936 to allow for the exchange of State Trust lands, Arizona has never amended its constitution to be in line with federal law. Prop 110 rectifies this discrepancy. Prop 110 provides a transparent public process for land exchanges between the State Land Department and the federal government. These types of exchanges will protect important wildlife habitat and eliminate checkerboard ownership and fragmentation. The strategic consolidation of State Trust lands may also relieve the State Land Department of pieces too small or isolated to manage effectively.


(Source: Arizona Secretary of State Website, Legislative Council Analysis)

In 1910, the United States Congress passed the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act, allowing Arizona to become a state. The Enabling Act granted Arizona approximately 10.9 million acres of land, referred to as "state trust land". The state land trust is intended to produce revenue for various public institutions (schools, colleges, prisons, etc.). The state can lease or sell trust land, and the natural products (timber, minerals, etc.) of the land, only to the "highest and best bidder" at public auction.

In 1936, Congress amended the Enabling Act to give Arizona more flexibility in managing and disposing of trust land by allowing the state to exchange trust land for other public or private lands. Arizona did not amend its state Constitution to incorporate that authority for land exchanges. The Arizona Supreme Court has determined that without amending the Arizona Constitution the state cannot conduct land exchanges.

Proposition 110 would amend the Arizona Constitution to allow the state to dispose of (for example, sell or lease) state trust land or interests in trust land or to place restrictions on interests or rights in trust lands, without advertisement or auction, in order to avoid incompatible use of the trust land that would interfere with military installations, facilities, ranges, airspace or operations or to enable military combat readiness and allow full spectrum test and training operations.

Proposition 110 would also amend the Arizona Constitution to allow the state to exchange state trust land for other public land. The exchange must be in the best interest of the state land trust. The purpose of the exchange must be to either assist in preserving and protecting military facilities in this state from encroaching development or for the proper management, protection or public use of state lands. There must be two independent appraisals that show that the true value of the land the state receives in the exchange is equal to or greater than the true value of the trust land the state conveys. There must also be two independent analyses that detail the income to the state land trust before and the projected income to the trust after the exchange, the financial impact of the exchange on each county, city, town and school district in which the lands are located, the physical, economic and natural resource impacts of the exchange on the local community and the impacts on local land uses and land use plans. A detailed public notice of a proposed exchange must be given, public hearings must be held and an opportunity for public comment must be given. A proposed exchange is not effective unless it is approved by the voters at a statewide November general election.

For the full text of Prop 110 and the ballot arguments submitted in support of Prop 110, visit:

Along with the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, the following organizations and people have endorsed Prop 110:

Arizona League of Cities & Towns
Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Arizona State Land Commissioner Maria Baier
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Fighter Country Partnership
National Federation of Independent Businesses
Senator John Nelson
Sierra Club
Sonoran Institute
The Nature Conservancy
Valley Partnership

Top 5 Reasons to Vote NO on Prop 301

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1. Arizonans have long identified preserving open space as one of their most important values. Proposition 301 was referred to the ballot by the legislature to raid the Land Conservation Fund. This is a voter-approved fund for conserving land and the only state fund dedicated to saving State Trust lands near Arizona communities.  Many of these State Trust land parcels contain crucial wildlife habitat, wildlife linkages, riparian areas, and other natural resources.

2. State Trust lands comprise 35 percent of the land base in eastern Pima County (25 percent is privately-owned). The Land Conservation Fund is the only dedicated state funding to help Pima County and other communities purchase State Trust land for conservation and open space.

3. Land Conservation Fund dollars are matched dollar for dollar by communities to buy State Trust land. Together these funds primarily benefit public education. When the legislature takes this $123 million, it is really taking twice that from the schools.

4. The Land Conservation Fund benefits lands identified in Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP). With the adoption of the SDCP planning process in 1998, and the many successful implementation steps taken in the ensuing 12 years, Pima County is ahead of the curve on regional land use planning. Without the Land Conservation Fund, Pima County would not be able to afford the purchase of State Trust lands – they are simply too expensive. Biologically sensitive State Trust lands identified in the SDCP could be developed in a piecemeal fashion, resulting in unnecessary habitat destruction.

5. In recent news articles, legislators have said that by sweeping Land Conservation Fund monies into the General Fund, this money can be spent on more important things like schools and health care. However, there is absolutely no assurance the money will be spent in this way. It could just as easily be used to off-set corporate tax breaks or other priorities the legislators identify. If they intended to spend this money on schools and health care, they should have said so in Prop 301.  They did not.



Prop 301 was referred to the ballot by the Arizona State Legislature for the November 2010 election and asks the voters to approve sweeping all the funds in the Land Conservation Fund into the General Fund. During the previous two legislative sessions, the Legislature tried to sweep these funds without voter approval but a judge ruled that voter approval is necessary.

The Land Conservation Fund was created by voters in 1998 as part of the Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) and is the only state fund dedicated to helping communities save State Trust land. The API itself was created by the legislature in 1996 and was designed to preserve select State Trust land parcels around urban areas for conservation. The API established a process whereby communities could purchase State Trust lands for conservation without going to auction. However, due to a lawsuit threat, this was later amended. Now, all State Trust lands must go through an official auction to the highest bidder.

By creating the Land Conservation Fund, voters authorized the state to appropriate $20 million to the Land Conservation Fund every year. This appropriation is scheduled to end in 2011. A “Growing Smarter Grant” program was created in order to disburse the monies in the Land Conservation Fund. Communities can apply for “Growing Smarter Grants” to help purchase specific State Trust land parcels for conservation. Communities must provide a dollar for dollar match to the grant. Thus, once utilized, the Land Conservation Fund dollars actually go twice as far in their benefit to Arizona schools and other beneficiaries of the State Trust.

After receiving a provisional “Growing Smarter Grant,” jurisdictions request an auction from the State Land Department. In doing this, they are taking a risk that they could be out-bid on the purchase of the State Trust land parcels. This is one reason that there is currently $123 million in the Land Conservation Fund. With that said, communities are using the Land Conservation Fund to purchase and preserve State Trust land parcels for conservation and open space. In 2009 Pima County bought 320 acres of State Trust land on Tumamoc Hill at auction for $4.7 million. Phoenix and Scottsdale have requested auctions on parcels of land in the fall of 2010 that could potentially use an additional $50 million of the Land Conservation Fund.


View of Tumamoc Hill. Photo by Pima County. 



Arizona Preserve Initiative Timeline


The Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) was passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

•    The API was intended to encourage the preservation of select State Trust land near urban areas for the benefit of future generations. It set up a process for specific lands to be deemed eligible for conservation and then sold to a state agency or local jurisdiction.

•    State Lands within 1 to 3 miles of municipalities, dependent on population, were eligible for preservation under API.  Lands must be sold at appraised market value.

•    The original intent of API was to allow the acquisition of lands for conservation purchases to occur without public auction. This would ensure that the lands would not be bid on for development purposes.


Amendments to API were passed by the Legislature which expanded eligible lands in Maricopa and Pima County to a 13 mile radius surrounding incorporated areas. The Tortolita Mountains area in Pinal County became eligible for preservation through the amendments.


Voters approved a proposition which authorized funding of the program from 2000 to 2011. This proposition allocated $20 million per year to be utilized as matching funds for the purchase of State Trust lands.


Just before Tumamoc Hill was scheduled to be sold to Pima County for preservation, a group     known as People for the West filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of API. They stated that the land must be sold through a public auction to the highest bidder. The case never went to court, but as a result of the filing the State does not now allow land to be sold without going to public auction.


With the assistance of a “Growing Smart Grant” from the Land Conservation Fund, Pima County purchased 320 acres of State Trust land on Tumamoc Hill for $4.7 million at public auction. Also in 2009, Pima County purchased 67.17 acres at the Valencia Site for $940,000. Pima County was the only bidder at both of these auctions.


As of March 2010, there have been 15 land sales through the API. Totaling 5,908 acres, this land has added approximately $215 million to the permanent Trust funds. There are 11 pending sale applications, totaling 15,461 acres.


Please Vote NO on Prop 301

To read the official text of the proposed amendment and ballot arguments for and against the proposition, please visit the AZ Secretary of State’s site: