Archive for the ‘Action Alerts’ Category

Coalition submits comments on the I-11 DEIS

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On July 4, 2019, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, and additional signatories representing 27 community and environmental organizations, submitted comments on the Tier 1 Interstate 11 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Nogales to Wickenburg.

The full comment letter can be found HERE

Still haven’t submitted YOUR comments on the I-11 DEIS? There’s still time! The comment deadline is still 4 days away on Monday, July 8. 

You can submit public comments in multiple ways, including:    

Onlinei11study.com/Arizona

Phone: 1.844.544.8049 (bilingüe)

Email: I-11ADOTStudy@hdrinc.com

Mail: 

I-11 Tier 1 EIS Study Team c/o ADOT Communications               
1655 W. Jackson Street
Mail Drop 126F              
Phoenix, AZ 85007

For more information on this issue to help inform your comments, head to our Take Action Webpage.

Thank you for using your voice for the people and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert! 

Join us for our April Highway Cleanup!

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Our adopted one-mile stretch of road includes the new Oracle Road wildlife underpass. This is a fun way to meet fellow like-minded conservationists, get some exercise, and beautify one of our roadways, all with the spectacular backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. For more information email sarah.whelan@sonorandesert.org

When: Saturday April 6, 2019

Time: 8am-10:30am

Meeting Place: See map link below.

What to bring: Sun hat, water bottle, closed toed shoes, we’ll provide bags, gloves, and garbage grabbers.

For more information or questions email Whelan at sarah.whelan@sonorandesert.org

The wildflowers along our adopted stretch of Oracle Rd are outrageous in all the best ways. Help us to help them by picking up some garbage April 6th!

Highway Clean up meet place

 

Stand up for Avra Valley!

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One of the Coalition’s supporters, Rick Brown, wrote this beautiful and powerful poem in defense of Avra Valley. Take a moment to sit with Rick’s commanding words about what we stand to lose if Interstate 11 is built at the doorstep to Saguaro National Park and other irreplaceable public lands. Thank you, Rick, for YOUR voice on behalf of the wildlife and wild places of the Sonoran Desert. 
 
Stand Up for Avra Valley! 
 
Midst a scenic desert valley
a freeway is planned to flow 
more useless sprawl and chaos
whose outcome we all know
 
This Sonoran panorama
is a treat for jaded eyes
seducing all who view her
‘neath those brilliant blue skies
 
A first trip to this landscape
will cause your heart to flutter
with glimpses of Arizona
before it fills with clutter 
 
A treasured realm of nature
spreads forth in grand repose
dotted with tall Saguaro
in their striking graceful pose 
 
Vistas that stir our conscience
abound from this great place
Tucson Mountain to Ironwood
are gifts you can NOT replace
 
Sacred and spiritual 
historic and sublime
Avra’s cultural essence
is the ideal paradigm
 
But greed, wealth, and pressure
fueled by backroom politics
keep Avra on the radar
with puzzling little tricks
 
It’s just another freeway
more miles of stark concrete 
What could possibly happen
when the Interstate’s complete?
 
Bulldozers by the hundreds 
would scour this mighty plain
by tearing it asunder
in a militant campaign
 

Noise, glare, and vibration 
would be the new calling card

gone are her days of wonder
left tattered, torn, and scarred
 
Thousands of tiny boxes
will rise from scattered seeds 
strewn across this basin
like machine-built tumbleweeds
 
Gridlock and more congestion
will become regular routine
Drivers could not imagine
this place was once serene
 
Destroying creation’s realm
when alternatives exist
is heinous to the utmost
and why we must resist
 
Foundations are in place
without building yet anew
along present corridors
much less-costly to pursue
 
Floodplain and water sources
occupy this narrow route
Why build amid these features
posing danger, risk, and doubt?
 
Our duty is to save her
from harbingers of doom
By protecting this fine Eden
she’ll forever stay abloom
 
Stand up for Avra Valley
let voices be overheard
It’s time to show the powerful
the passion of our words!
 
by R. Fleet Brown – 2018
 
 

Action Alert: Speak out today in support of the Endangered Species Act!

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The Endangered Species Act is under assault in Congress and we need your help!

A new Farm Bill package just passed out of the House Agricultural Committee and will be going to the full House for a vote soon. This bill contains a provision allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to approve pesticides without analyzing the risks they pose to endangered species.

Will you contact your Representative and express your opposition to any version of the Farm Bill that damages the Endangered Species Act or our National Forests?

Here is some more detailed background information on this Farm Bill package, courtesy of Coalition member group the Center for Biological Diversity:

“Buried in the many-thousand-page bill (H.R. 2) is an unprecedented provision allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to approve pesticides without analyzing the risks they pose to endangered species. This means the EPA could allow dangerous pesticides to be sprayed on endangered species’ habitats, including rivers and streams used by rare salmon, wetlands used by California red-legged frogs, and even marine environments used by orca whales and manatees.

Also in those pages are extreme provisions that would cause irreparable harm to national forests, clean drinking water and wildlife. The provisions eliminate environmental review for logging, roadbuilding and infrastructure decisions on national forests. They also undermine the National Environmental Policy Act and the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.”

Thank you for speaking out and using your voice to make a difference! 

Clean and Quiet Shuttles Come to Sabino Canyon in 2019

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 The Coalition has been partnering with both Pima Association of Governments (PAG) and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) for many years, both on long-range transportation planning and passage and implementation of the RTA voter-approved plan that includes $45 million for wildlife crossing infrastructure. Recently, PAG and the RTA formed a non-profit called the Regional Partnering Center (RPC) to more widely engage in projects throughout the region.

We are especially excited about the component of RPC’s recently awarded project to operate the “Sabino Canyon Shuttle” service. This project focuses on new interpretive programming at Sabino Canyon, in multiple languages and on multiple topics. Given the ongoing popularity of Sabino Canyon with both locals and tourists, this is an incredible opportunity to share the most up-to-date and compelling information about the Sonoran Desert and all the accomplishments Pima County and partners have achieved under the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. We are also excited about their plan to use electric vehicles in Sabino Canyon. This will reduce air and noise pollution, both of which will benefit the people and wildlife that visit and live in this spectacular and biologically-important area. The vehicles are scheduled to be introduced in January 2019.

Additionally, we applaud RPC’s commitment to managing the Sabino Canyon transit service in a way that provides underserved members of the community access to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area through a new link to the region’s public transit network. The Coalition is proud to be supporting the RPC’s efforts and to continue our partnership with the regional transportation entities in Pima County.

For a recent news article about the RPC’s plans for Sabino Canyon, head here

Leading the next generation out into the field!

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Manzanita students view the Oracle Road wildlife bridge with binoculars on loan from the Tucson Audubon Society. Photo credit: Jessica Moreno.

by Jessica Moreno

It was a clear, crisp day on March 6, and the freshly brewed coffee was almost as invigorating as the arrival of several school bus-loads of fourth graders and parents from Manzanita Elementary. Over 100 curious minds boiled out into the lower parking lot of the Santa Catalina Catholic Church on Oracle Road just south of the wildlife bridge. “Critter Cam Day” had arrived.

Coalition volunteers were already stationed around the seven activity tents laid out around the parking lot, as kids split into organized groups led by teachers Charlotte Ackerman and Jennifer DeBenedetti of the Manzanita Robotics Club. These students have been sorting and studying the Coalition’s wildlife camera photos as part of a new 4-week curriculum developed by Ackerman and DeBenedetti in partnership with CSDP. Today, they would have a field day.

Thanks to the Tucson Audubon Society, Manzanita students had access to spotting scopes for a better view of the Oracle Road wildlife bridge. Photo credit: Jessica Moreno.

It may not be surprising that the activities held their rapt attention and their colorful field guides, made especially for this day, were quick to be filled. Finely timed rotating activities included a spotting scope station to view the wildlife bridge and mapping points of interest. Mark Hart with Arizona Game and Fish Department taught wildlife tracks and track tracing skills. Wildlife rehabilitator and CSDP volunteer Kathie Schroeder and her outreach hawk Sueño shared the adaptations of Harris’s hawks and other birds of prey. Mr. Packrat brought a guest too – and shared the desert adaptions of native packrats. Stations also included games and activities to teach camouflage techniques and the importance of pheromones and scents. And of course, the day would not be complete without a guided nature walk to check a wildlife camera!

Throughout the morning, students and parents were absorbing the skills and knowledge of naturalists and scientists and giving back a thirst for more. As we met around the leftover coffee and homemade granola bars after the day was done, teachers, volunteers, and guest contributors all agreed that very few improvements could be made to this positive and inspiring day. The success of this event is something we hope to repeat, and expand next year. Eventually, we hope this will be a curriculum that can be packaged and adopted by other TUSD schools. Not unlike the critters now crossing new bridges, these students are poised to bridge the divide between knowing – and doing.

Coalition Desert Monitors Jeff Stensrud and Carl Boswell lead students out into the field to see their critter cameras in action! Photo credit: Jessica Moreno.

Read the latest story about Critter Cam Day in the Oro Valley Explorer, here.

Check out this fantastic video about Critter Cam Day produced by the Catalina Foothills School District:

Emerging issues with the Oracle Road wildlife crossings create opportunities for stronger community connections.

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by Jessica Moreno

Mesh wildlife fencing along Oracle Road funnels animals to the wildlife crossings. Photo credit: Jessica Moreno.

Once a wildlife crossing is built, the project still isn’t done. CSDP has remained actively involved with the wildlife bridge and underpass project on Oracle Road since its completion, helping to install educational signage, planning re-vegetation and erosion control, engaging on emerging issues like motorized use and other encroachments, and, of course, monitoring changes in local wildlife. For little over a year, we have also been focusing on building a stronger connection with the local Rancho Vistoso HOA and with the roughly 60 homeowners living near the crossings. Javelina, coyotes, desert tortoise, and a myriad of smaller wildlife have been slipping through gaps in the wildlife-funnel fencing, resulting in a two-mile plume of roadkill extending south of the underpass on Oracle Road. These open gaps are the cul-de-sacs and drainage areas within the underpass’s adjacent HOA neighborhood, where animals can access the street and bypass the wildlife underpass. While the idea of wildlife fencing in the neighborhood is understandably undesirable for most homeowners, we have been slowly coming together to find solutions and a compromise that works for all.

 

With some exceptions (there are always a few), wildlife are excellent neighbors. Quiet, shy except around the bird feeder, we mostly don’t even see them unless we make an effort to look. Yet they provide us with spontaneous joy when do catch a glimpse. The therapeutic hum of tiny wings at the feeder during a spring rain and the bright-eyed peaceful stare of a deer in the chill morning can make time stand still. Wildlife watching from our yards and community areas is part of why many of us choose to live here. According to a 2011 report conducted by the Tucson Audubon Society, in Pima County alone wildlife watching supported more than 2,700 jobs, and directly produced $19.8 million in local and state tax revenue from over $179 million in wildlife watching related spending. In one year! It’s nice to know that the pollinator plants and binoculars I bought contribute to a thriving economy, but I’m just as happy to see the tracks of the local bobcat when I go for stroll in the evening and to add another hummingbird to my yard list.

 

It is also good to know that our wildlife crossings on Oracle Road are working wonderfully, with mule deer, javelina, bobcats, coyotes, and more using them regularly. That investment has truly paid for itself, by supporting local wildlife watching opportunities and by reducing the taxpayer and personal costs of wildlife-vehicle collisions. There have been over 2,900 animal crossings on the bridge and underpass recorded to date, and – where the wildlife funnel-fencing is complete – roadkill is down to near zero. After the surprise of tortoises and bighorn sheep last season, one of the local homeowners photographed a beautiful badger (local nighttime rodent control, at your service) near their home west of the wildlife underpass in early February. We now have evidence of badgers on both sides of the wildlife crossings, and neighbors are sharing their sightings and their stories.

Wildlife fencing along Oracle Road helps to guide animals to the crossings. Photo credit: Jessica Moreno.

Here where people and nature encroach upon each other, finding balance can be challenging. The peaceful gaze of a deer tells me that the return in our investment, and the reward, is well worth some compromise. As wildlife adapt to their changing landscape, we can continue to enjoy their presence and strive to be a community of good neighbors in return. By bringing the community together as part of the process, we all share in that success.

Our support for a ban on trophy hunting of Arizona’s wild cats

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The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection has formally endorsed a new ballot initiative that seeks to ban trophy hunting of wild cats in Arizona, specifically mountain lions, bobcats, jaguars, ocelots, and lynx. 

In the  spirit of transparency and open discussion, the main reasons we have endorsed the Arizonans for Wildlife ballot initiative include:

  • We strongly believe in protecting and restoring functioning ecosystems in the Sonoran Desert. Population growth, climate change, and an increasingly fragmented landscape have stressed Sonoran Desert wildlife and reduced the healthy, connected wildlife habitat available to them. Given these ever-present and ever-growing stressors, we cannot support the additional stressor of hunting of wild cats simply for displaying their bodies. Furthermore and perhaps even more importantly, wild cats such as mountain lions are important predators in a healthy Sonoran Desert ecosystem that serve a critical function in maintaining healthy populations of other wildlife. A recent study published in the journal Science Advances also investigated the social networks of mountain lions and concluded that, contrary to conventional wisdom, “solitary” male mountain lions play a much larger role in maintaining mountain lion communities than was previously thought. This means that the trophy hunting of adult male mountain lions could have more serious and negative consequences on female and young mountain lion populations than was previously thought. We support the continued re-connection and protection of wildlife habitat so that wildlife populations can recover and thrive in the future. We do not believe trophy hunting of wild cats contributes to this goal. 
  • We support hunting for subsistence and providing food for Arizona families but we do not support trophy hunting of wild cats. We collaborated with hunters and ranchers on the creation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and we hope these partnerships continue far into the future. However, this support does not extend to the trophy hunting of wild cats. We believe it is possible to be pro-hunting while also disagreeing with trophy hunting of wild cats. It does not have to be all or nothing. While some hunting groups have written that the groups supporting this ballot initiative are “anti-hunting extremist organizations,” we could not disagree more. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection has a long history of compromise and collaboration with a wide variety of community stakeholders, including ranchers, hunters, real estate developers, local governments, private property owners, and others, and we are proud of this heritage. We are hopeful that our position in support of this ballot initiative can be viewed with the nuance and complexity it deserves. 
  • This is a very specific and limited measure that only applies to wild cats. We understand that hunters are generally very supportive of conservation and that money generated from selling hunting licenses and tags is an important source of revenue for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD). We partner with AGFD on many of our projects and respect and apprciate the hard-working professionals that work there and the important work they do to protect and manage Arizona’s wildlife. We acknowledge that banning trophy hunting of wild cats will mean a loss of the specific revenue for hunting tags for mountain lions and possibly a loss of revenue for a small number of hunting licenses (if someone is only purchasing this license to hunt mountain lions or bobcats). As with any complex issue, we have to weigh the pros and cons and the costs and benefits of different viewpoints. In this case, we believe that the loss of revenue from hunting tags for mountain lions and a small number of hunting licenses is an acceptable trade-off compared to the benefits gained from keeping wild cat populations thriving and intact.

NOTE: Mountain lions are the only species covered by this initiative that require purchased “tags” for hunting. To hunt bobcats, you only need a general hunting license. Jaguars, ocelots, and lynx are not allowed to be hunted at this time due to federal protections. However, this initiative includes them due to possible incidental hunting and to be forward-thinking and comprehensive in scope, i.e., if any of these species are recovered enough in the future to be removed from the federal “threatened” and “endangered” species list, they would be protected from trophy hunting at that time with this ballot initiative. In addition, lynx are included in this initiative because they were recently re-introduced into southwest Colorado and individual lynx were documented in northwest Arizona afterwards. More information on this research can be found here.

For more information about this ballot initiative, we invite you to check out the Arizonans for Wildlife website. This “Fact Sheet” about Arizona’s wild cats also includes many scientific citations that discuss the best available science on the life history and biology of wild cats. 

Interested in helping gather the necessary signatures to place this ballot initiative on the ballot in November 2018? Head here to fill out a volunteer interest form and one of the campaign’s staff member will be in touch as soon as possible. 

Would you like to discuss this further with Coalition staff? Please send us an email and we’ll respond as soon as we can! 

Thank you for supporting healthy wildlife and wildlife habitat in the Sonoran Desert! 

This mountain lion was captured on a wildlife camera at one of two wildlife underpasses on State Route 86 on the Tohono O’odham Nation in 2014. The Coalition was involved with the construction of these wildlife underpasses through our participation on the Regional Transportation Authority’s Wildlife Linkages Committee.

This mountain lion was captured by one of the Coalition’s remote motion-activated wildlife cameras in Catalina State Park in 2015. We have almost 50 wildlife cameras out in the field capturing data about Sonoran Desert wildlife in Pima County. These cameras are managed by 60+ dedicated volunteers.

This bobcat seems to be smiling for one of our wildlife cameras located west of Tortolita Mountain Park. Bobcats are frequently caught on our wildlife cameras and some of our volunteers have reported seeing bobcat kittens in their backyards.

This bobcat was captured by an Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife camera installed in the Oracle Road wildlife underpass, which was finished in 2016 as part of a larger project that widened Oracle Road from four to six traffic lanes. As of June 2017, Game and Fish has documented 59 bobcats crossing Oracle Road safely through the wildlife underpass or over the wildlife bridge.

Speak out in support of the Antiquities Act and our National Monuments!

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The Antiquities Act and our National Monuments are under assault in Congress and we need your help!

Ragged Top in the Ironwood Forest National Monument would not be protected without the Antiquities Act. Speak up today to support our public lands!

Earlier this month, Utah Representative Rob Bishop introduced HR 3990, the “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” and it passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on October 11, 2017 (23 in support, 17 against).

This bill would GUT the Antiquities Act. According to the Sierra Club, the four main takeaways of the bill are:

1. It changes the definition of what qualifies as deserving of protection. Artifacts and buildings are in, items of scientific importance and natural objects are definitely out.
2. It places restrictions on the size of monuments. Anything over 85,000 acres definitely can’t be a monument. National monuments between 10,000 and 85,000 acres require approval from state legislatures and governors, which has been known to take decades.
3. It includes language that explicitly permits the president to rescind a national monument, totally undercutting the Administration and Bishop’s arguments that the Antiquities Act as currently written already allows the president to get rid of a monument.
4. It completely prohibits the creation of marine monuments under the Antiquities Act.

Will you contact your Representative and express your opposition to HR3990?

Please let your representative know why you support our national monuments, those that are protected today and potential ones in the future.

For an excellent editorial by Coalition supporter and Friends of Ironwood Forest Board Member Bill Thornton about why we need to protect the Antiquities Act, head here

We don’t know yet when HR 3990 will be debated and voted on in the House of Representatives so check back for an update – we’ll post one here when we know more.

Thank you for speaking out and using your voice to make a difference!

Pima County Supervisors to vote on important resolutions that address climate change and water quality

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July 10, 2017

Tomorrow morning the Pima County of Board of Supervisors will be voting on two important resolutions that support: 1) Pima County’s participation in the County Climate Coalition and specific goals and actions in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement, and 2) important water quality protection goals. Can you attend this meeting and voice your support for these resolutions at the Call to the Audience at 9:15am? Your voice matters to the Supervisors and will make a difference. 

The text of the climate change resolution can be found here.

The text of the water quality resolution can be found here

The meeting will be held at the following address in downtown Tucson:

Board of Supervisors Hearing Room
Pima County Administration Building 
130 West Congress, 1st Floor 
Tucson, AZ

You can also call or email your Supervisor in support of these resolutions if you can’t make the meeting. Their contact information can be found here

Thank you!