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New paid Desert Wildlife Internship!

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We are excited to announce a new paid internship program with the Coalition. This August, we will be hiring our first paid Desert Wildlife Intern for the Fall 2022 semester.

The Desert Wildlife Intern will actively contribute to meaningful conservation projects to protect wildlife and open space. They will be mentored by CSDP staff, both collaboratively and independently completing tasks. Interns are provided opportunities for specific mentorship and training in an area of interest through a chosen final project. This position offers remote work-from-home and flexible hours. 

Head over to our Internships webpage to learn more and see the full job posting. And please share with anyone who would be interested in applying for this program. Thanks! 

 

CSDP and partners sue over federal approval of Interstate 11

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On April 21, 2022, four conservation groups – the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, along with our member groups Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Audubon Society, and Friends of Ironwood Forest – filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Tucson challenging the Federal Highway Administration’s approval of Interstate 11 last year.

The agency approved the highway in November 2021 despite postponing an environmental review or deciding between two route options in Pima County, both of which would harm wildlife, public lands, and air quality and exacerbate the climate emergency. The lawsuit says this “approve now, study later” approach violated federal law.

The Coalition’s Executive Director, Carolyn Campbell, said in a press release about the lawsuit, “This is an egregious assault on 100 years of efforts by local, state and federal land agencies to protect important desert lands forever, for species to survive and move through the landscape. There is overwhelming opposition by residents, tribal entities, public agencies and elected officials here in the Tucson area and we won’t stop until we’ve blocked this destructive and unneeded freeway that will harm our wildlands and wildlife.

To learn more, you can read a press release and an AZ Daily Star article about the lawsuit. You can also find comprehensive background information on Interstate 11 at this webpage, which includes a main page with the latest information and extensive sub-pages that chronicle our years-long campaign opposing this project. 

Thank you for using your voice to oppose the West Option for Interstate 11! 

The latest news in our Spring 2022 Friends of the Desert newsletter

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We hope our Spring 2022 newsletter brings some hope, joy, and positivity into your mailboxes and inboxes. 

Check out the following articles in the newsletter:

  • The many pieces of a connected landscape
  • State Route 86 wildlife bridges move to siting and design phase
  • Volunteer Spotlight: Environmental Law Society
  • And more!

And, as always, thank you for supporting a protected and restored Sonoran Desert!

 

Join us in removing old fencing and improving wildlife connectivity in Avra Valley!

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Join us this week to remove old fencing and improve wildlife connectivity between the Tucson Mountains and the Tohono O’odham Nation!

Background

This past December, over 65 volunteers came together one morning to remove three miles of old fencing, including three tons of fence posts and wire fencing, from an area in Avra Valley west of the Tucson Mountains. Removing this fencing is important to improve the critical wildlife linkage areas between Tucson Mountain Park, Saguaro National Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, and the Tohono O’odham Nation.  And now this collaborative project is moving forward with another opportunity to pitch in and remove even more fencing!

The details

When: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – March 10, 11, and 12

Time: 8am-12pm, 12pm lunch (will be provided), Afternoon flexible

Where: Avra Valley area near Three Points (more detailed instructions on exactly where to meet will be sent out to volunteers after they sign up)

What to bring: Water bottle, work gloves, sturdy shoes, sun hat, etc. (again, more details to follow)

How to sign up: Head over to this GoogleForm to sign up

According to Don Swann, a biologist at Saguaro National Park, “Many studies have shown that barbed wire fences can stop large animals, change their movement patterns, and keep them away from water and food sources they need to survive. Animals can also be killed trying to jump over a barbed wire fence if they become entangled and are not able to free themselves.” 

You can sign up for one, two, or all three days! All you need to do is sign up through our online form.

To see a slideshow and learn more about the December 2021 event and what’s in store for the March 2022 event, head over to this recent blog post on our website

Questions? Feel free to reach out to CSDP Executive Director Carolyn Campbell at Carolyn.Campbell@sonorandesert.org or leave a voicemail at (520) 388-9925 and we’ll get back with you ASAP. 

SR86 Wildlife Bridges move to siting and design phase

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In January 2022, a group of people from Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Department of Transportation, the Tohono O’odham Nation, and the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection conducted a scouting field trip to finalize the locations of two new wildlife bridges on SR86 near Kitt Peak. These bridges will complement two existing wildlife underpasses built nearby in 2013-2014. During the trip, the attendees also visited the underpasses and associated wildlife fencing and were able to identify ongoing maintenance tasks so these underpasses continue providing a safe crossing location for wildlife for many years to come. 

The SR86 wildlife bridges will be built to attract local bighorn sheep and other wildlife so they can safely cross between the Baboquivari Mountains to the south and mountain ranges to the north. The Regional Transportation Authority is funding these crossings, under a plan approved by voters in 2006 from $45 million allocated for wildlife linkage infrastructure projects. 

Check out some photos of the field trip below. 

 

 

 

 

Avra Valley Fence Removal Volunteer Day a Big Success!

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On December 11, 2021, a group of local organizations and state/federal agencies came together to celebrate National Public Lands Day by holding a Fence Removal Volunteer Day in Avra Valley. It was a wonderfully cool day with volunteers in high spirits to accomplish something tangible and positive for wildlife. 

A few fun stats from this great event:

  • Over 65 volunteers, a group from the American Conservation Experience (ACE) program, and staff from Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service joined together for the project. 
  • 3 miles of fence were removed from the landscape in one morning.
  • 3 tons of metal, including fence posts and wire fencing, were hauled away.

This is a fantastic start to improving the permeability of the landscape for wildlife movement between the Tucson Mountains, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Pima County open space lands, and more. And a big thanks to the Coalition volunteers that came out and volunteered their time – we are so thankful for you. 

This is the first of a few Fence Removal Volunteer Days – we plan to hold one to two more this winter and spring so keep your eye out for more details. We’d love to have you join in on the next event! 

Thank you to all the organizations that helped make this event possible, including Friends of Ironwood Forest, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Saguaro National Park/National Park Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, American Conservation Experience, Pima County, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the Mule Deer Foundation. 

Photos below are courtesy Carolyn Campbell and Lee Pagni. 

2021 Wildlife Camera Program Snapshot

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In 2021, 84 active volunteers logged 1,027 hours of volunteer time towards our Wildlife Camera Program.

Here is a snapshot of where we are at with our projects:

Oro Valley Wildlife Crossings Project

  • 20 active cameras divided equally east and west of the highway.
  • 350,000 photos
  • 65 species including mountain lion, bighorn, ringtail, coati, badger & raccoon. Many of these species include birds!
  • Mule deer activity increased west of the highway after crossing construction and has been steadily increasing with a just short pause after construction of the Big Wash multi-use trail.
  • A female mountain lion used the underpass coming from Big Wash this summer and our cameras photographed her continuing to move northeast into Catalina State Park.
  • Upgraded cameras to new and improved models, and replaced cameras lost to flooding.

 

I-10 East Project

  • 45 cameras across 10 study sites
  • Over 1 million photos
  • 36 species including black bear, mountain lion, opossum, Gould’s turkey, coati, ringtail, badger, and spotted skunk.
  • Monitoring for this project officially ends at the end of January 2022 with a final report in July 2022 that will include recommendations for culvert modifications and funnel fencing mitigation.
  • This project is funded with support from an Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Grant.

 

Tucson Mountains Project

  • 20 active cameras with plans to add more in early 2022.
  • 175,000 photos
  • 34 species including mountain lion, gray fox, spotted skunk, raccoon, mud turtle, and green heron.
  • This project started on private properties and the Los Morteros conservation area in the northern Tucson Mountains and now includes El Rio Preserve and the Santa Cruz River. We are expanding across I-10 into Pima County conservation lands on the east side of the Interstate near Avra Valley Rd, where we hope to place a future wildlife crossing structure.
  • We will also be adding new cameras on private properties along the I-11 corridor in Avra Valley in early 2022.
  • Upgraded cameras to new and improved models, and replaced cameras lost to flooding.

 

Sopori Wash Project

  • 5 new cameras deployed in partnership with the Arizona Land and Water Trust.

 

A huge thank you to all of our amazing volunteers and all the time, effort, and passion you contributed to this program in 2021!

Fish and Wildlife Service propose listing the pygmy owl as a threatened species

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The small but mighty cactus ferruginous pygmy owl was in the news once again recently after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed re-listing the species, this time as a threatened species. The pygmy owl was listed as an endangered species from 1997-2006. Currently, the Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments on the proposals during a 60-day public comment period. 

To learn more about the history of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and its importance to conservation in southern Arizona, head over to the AZ Daily Star article

Interested in submitting a comment in support of this listing? Head over to this website and click on the blue “Comment” button in the upper left corner of the page. 

Thank you!

Photo by Aaron Flesch-UA, courtesy Pima County

2020 Annual Gratitude Report

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We recently sent out our 2020 Annual Gratitude Report with our Fall 2021 Friends of the Desert Newsletter. Please check it out today and feel good about everything we accomplished together during a very challenging year! Thank you!

Friends of the Desert Newsletter #60

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We hope our Fall 2021 newsletter brings some hope, joy, and positivity into your mailboxes and inboxes. 

Check out the following articles in the newsletter:

  • New project will collect wildlife data on Sopori Ranch
  • Thank you for speaking out against the proposed I-11 route in Avra Valley
  • Two new member groups join the Coalition! 
  • And more!

And, as always, thank you for supporting a protected and restored Sonoran Desert!