Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category
Good news for conservation in Marana!
On December 10, 2019, the Marana Town Council approved the new draft Marana General Plan with a few major changes we requested. This includes 1) solidifying the long-term protection of the Tortolita Preserve and 2) removing a “Special Planning Area” from lands southwest of the Tortolita Preserve so these lands will remain low density if they are ever developed.
Thank you to all the community members that showed up and voiced their concerns about these issues over the last couple months, including the newly formed Tortolita Alliance! Our voices can make a difference!
If you’d like more information, you can read our full comment letter that we submitted to the Marana Town Council on December 9, 2019, our previous comment letter submitted to the Marana Planning & Zoning Commission in September 2019, and the full draft Marana General Plan.
What’s next for the Marana General Plan? Marana voters will get to vote on this new General Plan in August.
The short answer from our Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno is:
I recommend checking out the reviews and the beginner’s buyers guide found at www.trailcampro.com. With new models coming on the market all the time, this is a great resource for up to date recommendations and tips. You get what you pay for, so I don’t recommend anything worth less than $100. To minimize animal disturbance, choose an infrared/IR camera over white flash.
For more information, check out Jessica’s longer article in the Desert Leaf, “Wildlife (caught) on camera” which gives more details on wildlife cameras, the different ways they are used, some rules and regulations to think about depending on where you’re placing them, and what to think about when buying one.
If you do end up buying a camera and get some interesting pictures of Sonoran Desert wildlife, we’d love to see them!
Note: Another fun resource is the Backyard Wildlife of the Southwest Facebook page where wildlife enthusiasts from around the Southwest regularly post photos of wildlife taken with their wildlife cameras and regular cameras.
Good news for clean water in Arizona! The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has officially suspended its efforts to take over a key part of the federal Clean Water Act. According to the ADEQ website:
In 2018, ADEQ began a collaborative stakeholder process to draft a roadmap for Arizona to assume the Clean Water Act Section 404 Permitting program. Almost 500 people engaged by attending stakeholder meetings, participating in work groups and providing over 2,100 comments. The majority of stakeholder input supported retaining the current process.
Based on this, ADEQ has decided not to continue pursuing state assumption of the 404 permitting program. Stakeholder engagement is an integral part of the potential development of any program, and the Department appreciates the participation of so many people sharing their perspectives.
In November 2019, CSDP was a part of a coalition of environmental groups that submitted a letter to ADEQ urging them to suspend their efforts to take over the 404 permitting process under the Clean Water Act, which protects our waterways from pollution, degradation and disturbance by industrial and development projects. On December 4, 2019, this coalition of groups issued a press release praising this decision by ADEQ.
According to Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club – Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter, “Arizona’s waters, including those—and perhaps especially those—with limited water should be afforded the highest levels of protection. Plants, animals, cultural resources, and the public interest must be top priorities in considering permits to alter our waters. We are pleased that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is not moving forward with the program without the necessary strong public review and involvement process and better and stronger cultural and natural resource protections.”
Thank you for supporting our advocacy for clean water in the Sonoran Desert – our voices can make a difference!
Thanks to all of our supporters and volunteers for another year of successful wildlife camera monitoring in the Tucson Mountains and Oro Valley study areas! See an overview of our Tucson Mountain camera project results HERE and our Oro Valley camera project results HERE.
We have been monitoring wildlife with wildlife cameras in the northern portion of the Tucson Mountains and Avra Valley for four years. To date we’ve seen over 30 species across 23 camera sites, data which helps inform our I-11 work and knowledge about the Tucson-Tortolita Mountain Wildlife Linkage. Javelina have been photographed most frequently, and it is good to see these native seed dispersers out and about! Other notable results in the last year include more badgers, and bobcats with kittens in tow.
In Oro Valley, we have been monitoring east and west of the Oracle Road wildlife bridge and underpass for a total of seven years! We now have excellent comparative data pre- and post- construction of the crossings that were built in May 2016. With 62 species across 49 camera sites (and nearly 78,000 photos!), we are seeing lots of cottontails and quail that are plentiful prey for coyotes, bobcats, and gray foxes. We’ve seen white-nose coati and bighorn, and our resident female mountain lion has appeared again this year several times just west of the wildlife bridge.
We will post more detailed results as we finalize project reports and dive into the fun and useful information these cameras have in store!
“ARC Solutions and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation are delighted to announce the release of (Re)Connecting Wild: Restoring Safe Passage.
This film tells the remarkable story of the decade-long effort by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and its partners to improve human safety by re-connecting an historic mule deer migration that crosses over both US-93 and I-80 in rural Elko County, Nevada. Faced with hundreds of motorist crashes involving deer along these two highways, NDOT analyzed carcass and collision data, along with mule deer movement data collected by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, to identify the highest risk areas for deer-vehicle conflicts.
This analysis revealed four priorities, including 10 Mile Summit and HD Summit along US-93, and Silver Zone Pass and Pequop Summit along I-80. Armed with these priorities, NDOT set about planning a series of multi-faceted projects that ultimately resulted in the construction of five new wildlife overpasses and four new wildlife underpasses, plus connective fencing, as well as the integration of four existing vehicular underpasses that today serve as multi-use structures for both motorists and wildlife. Avoiding typical bridge designs, NDOT employed innovative, wildlife-friendly construction methods to reduce costs and construction time while also maximizing wildlife usage and acceptance.
These methods are depicted in a special time-lapse segment, which allows viewers to virtually witness construction of the wildlife crossing structures along I-80. Ultimately, NDOT’s tireless efforts have achieved its primary goal of improving human safety and welfare – as evidenced by the more than 40,000 successful crossings by wildlife at the four priority sites – while at the same time restoring safe passage for migratory mule deer to more than 1.5 million acres of summer and winter habitat.”
Want to learn lots of interesting facts about the Sonoran Desert’s mule deer? Check out CSDP Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno’s latest column in the Desert Leaf magazine. In this article, titled “Mule Deer Constellations,” Jessica follows the journey of one mule deer that was collared by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as part of the larger monitoring study of the Oracle Road wildlife crossings. Check out the article HERE to learn more about where this mule deer travels!
The full issue of the Desert Leaf can be found HERE.
Coalition staffer presents on I-10 Safe Passages Project at International Conference on Ecology and Transportation
By Myles Traphagen, Borderland Programs Coordinator, Wildlands Network
Sacramento, California was the location of the tenth biennial International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) held September 22 to 26th, 2019. Jessica Moreno, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection’s Conservation Science Director, presented the “Safe Passages for Wildlife on Interstate-10 within the Rincon-Santa Rita-Whetstone Mountains Wildlife Linkage” project, made possible by a generous grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund.
Nearly 600 delegates from 19 countries attended the four-day conference held at the Hyatt Regency directly across the street from the California State Capitol building. The vast array of topics at the conference ranged from camera trapping workshops, wildlife crossing structure design, public policy, and the state of transportation ecology around the globe.
With nearly 4 million miles of roads in the United States, and the ever-increasing paving of new roads globally (estimated to total 16 million miles by 2050), the effects of mechanized human transport on wildlife, biodiversity, and highway safety are staggering. The constant, daily stress exerted upon wildlife and biodiversity by roads cannot be ignored. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection is actively addressing this issue through a variety of projects, and the Safe Passages presentation made by Jessica at the ICOET Conference was the final presentation in the Connecting Plans to Action session, for action is our modus operandi.
The 20-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between the Highway 83 and first Benson exit is the focus of our project. It’s obvious to anybody who has driven through this stretch that the numerous drainages and arroyos, like Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek (which encompass several protected areas and important waters in the eastern Sonoran Desert), provide a natural travel corridor for animals that migrate between the Sky Island mountains north and south of I-10. This area has been a frequent zone of wildlife vehicle collisions. It’s no accident that these unfortunate “accidents” occur, because the Arizona Wildlife Linkages Assessment identified several wildlife corridors that cross right through here. This underscores the perils of the linear infrastructure like roads, railways, power lines and canals that increasingly dominate our modern world.
Now in Phase II, the I-10 Safe Passages project is using wildlife camera monitoring and roadkill surveys, along with community science engagement, to gather species-specific baseline data on wildlife passage rates and roadkill hotspots. We couldn’t do this important work without our dedicated volunteer team of “Desert Roadies” to help us with the driving surveys. Preliminary results, including a black bear mortality on August 23rd at mile marker 289 at Cienega Creek, have already begun to identify optimum locations for wildlife funnel-fencing installation, existing culvert retrofits, and new wildlife crossing structures. These data will inform State and County highway and wildlife officials on where to focus mitigation efforts to improve highway safety and minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions, and to provide justification for project funding.
In the US alone, it is estimated that there are between one and two million large animal wildlife vehicle collisions a year with hundreds of human fatalities as a result. The science of Road Ecology is attempting to reduce these occurrences by using crash analysis and GIS modeling of landscape variables that naturally funnel animals towards point specific places in their daily and seasonal movements. Progress is being made in identifying these places (like along I-10) where the greatest likelihood of wildlife collisions is predicted to occur.
With the data collected from the I-10 Safe Passages Project, we can identify and quantify wildlife vehicle collision hotspots and plan for and modify build-out plans to mitigate and respond accordingly to reduce these conflicts. In the case of the proposed Interstate 11, we support using avoidance and not building it in the first place! In the age of “Super-Commuters,” a term which the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife used to describe drivers who spend two hours each way traveling to and from work, we need to rethink our approach to highway construction and proactively mitigate for and modify the design and building of roads. To learn more about how you can help by volunteering or donating, visit us here. Keep an eye out for wildlife and drive slower, safer and less when you can.
There are currently two open public surveys that are looking for your input!
1. Pima County is looking for your input on floodprone areas near where you live and work. “The survey only takes a few minutes,” Floodplain Management Division Manager Brian Jones said. “People know of some high-risk spots for flooding and erosion in their areas that the District doesn’t know about. We want to know all of them. We also want opinions on how the public wants us to manage flood risks.” Please head over to the survey and share your views!
2. The City of Tucson would like your input on a proposed program and fee to provide additional stormwater management services in the community. To learn more about the proposal and provide feedback via a brief survey, which is open for feedback until the end of August, visit:
Thanks for sharing your views with both Pima County and the City of Tucson to help improve our region’s floodplain management and stormwater management.
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:
Phone: 1.844.544.8049 (bilingüe)
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!
Last month, Pima County’s Office of Sustainability and Conservation released their latest annual report outlining the achievements of their Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan. According to an email from Environmental Planning Manager Julia Fonseca:
“Notable achievements during calendar year 2018 included:
• The Section 10 permit covered impacts of 44 private development projects.
• Forty-seven County Capital Improvement Projects were covered by the permit during calendar year 2018.
• A total of 974 acres of mitigation land was required to offset public and private impacts to habitat. Over 4,000 acres is being allocated in the San Pedro and Cienega Creek valleys to compensate for current and future years of habitat loss.
• The Regional Flood Control District (RFCD) estimates that the Section 10 permit saved them $200,000 in direct costs and $1.5 million indirectly due to avoided delays with one project.
• The County developed a procedure allowing private developments to rely on Certificates of Coverage to streamline compliance with certain provisions of the County’s Native Plant Preservation Ordinance.
• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and USFWS allowed a developer to rely on Certificates of Coverage to meet mitigation obligations for the Pima Pineapple Cactus under an existing Section 404 permit. This saved the developer an estimated $280,000.
• The County RFCD reported a substantial increase in the number of riparian habitat reviews over last year. Over 95% of applicants avoided impacting regulated riparian habitat, resulting in 2,196 instances of avoidance.
• Pima County staff, contractors, and volunteers removed or treated approximately 1,300 acres of buffelgrass on County preserve lands, and 90 tons of garbage from illegal dumpsites.
During the past year, Office of Sustainability and Conservation staff made 1,193 separate observations on Covered Species. For me, one of the fun outcomes of staff’s efforts are their incidental observations, for instance this video of rattlesnake courtship at https://www.facebook.com/pimac
The full 2018 MSCP Annual Report and 2018 MSCP Progress Report can be found HERE.