Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

Sonoran Desert wildlife crossings featured in Zocalo magazine

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The Oracle Road wildlife bridge is one of a few projects featured in a new article in Zocalo magazine about Sonoran Desert wildlife crossings. Photo by Thomas Wiewandt.

Zocalo magazine published a fantastic article about Sonoran Desert wildlife crossings in its April issue. Titled Animal Avenues, this article features both the successful Oracle Road wildlife crossings and plans for more wildlife crossings on Tangerine Road and La Cholla Boulevard. Check out the full article, including a new aerial photo of the Oracle Road wildlife bridge, here.

Lesser long-nosed bat removed from Endangered Species List

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A lesser long-nosed bat pollinates a saguaro cactus flower. Photo courtesy Merlin B. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International.

Last month, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that the lesser long-nosed is being removed from the endangered species list. The lesser-long nosed bat is one of Pima County’s Priority Vulnerable Species and is covered by the Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

More than anything, we are glad the bats are doing well! We support efforts to protect the bats and their maternity roosts and are pleased that this has led to increased populations. However, with climate change and other anthropogenic threats, we are cautiously optimistic that this de-listing was not premature. We’ll keep you updated as any more news is released about this important desert wildlife species. For a recent news article about the delisting, head here.

Pima County Publishes 2017 Annual Report on the Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan

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In early March, Pima County published its 2017 Annual Report on the Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan. According to Pima County, highlights of the report include: 

  • The permit was used to cover impacts of 14 private development projects and 33 County Capital Improvement Projects. 
  • Over 200 acres of land has been allocated as mitigation so far, triggering an obligation to develop a new management plan for the Bingham Cienega Natural Preserve, a key protected area located along the San Pedro River.
  • The Gila topminnow has colonized the effluent-dominated stretch of the Santa Cruz River downstream of Tucson. 
  • Pima County Regional Flood Control District received an in-stream flow certificate to protect water for wildlife at Buehman Canyon.
  • Staff provided the first set of Biennial Inspection Reports to Arizona Land and Water Trust as evidence of our responsibility to uphold the restrictions placed on thousands of acres of mitigation lands.
  • Cactus ferruginous pygmy owls were detected at least once on all properties surveyed for that species in the Altar Valley. No owls were detected in the Tucson Mountain Park.
  • Tucson Audubon Society and County staff found yellow-billed cuckoos in three County riparian areas.
  • County staff implemented a geodatabase housing all observations of MSCP Covered Species.
  • In partnership with the National Park Service and Tucson Audubon Society, the first set of long-term soil and vegetation monitoring plots were set up and completed.
  • The County has convened a new panel of experts to help inform our monitoring efforts.  Please welcome: Angela Dahlby, Gita Bodner, Carianne Campbell, Andy Hubbard, Shawn Lowery, Cheryl McIntyre, and Don Swann to the new Science and Technical Advisory Team.
  • The County hired Karen Simms—formerly with U. S. Bureau of Land Management—to head the Natural Resources division at the Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department.

Check out the full report here.

In the News: Manzanita Elementary students contribute to wildlife camera project

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October 3, 2017

The AZ Daily Star published a feature story about our partnership with Manzanita Elementary School on October 1, 2017. We are excited these students and teachers are getting recognition for their contribution to our Remote Wildlife Camera Monitoring Project and that this project is growing beyond our dreams. Lead teachers Jennifer DeBenedetti and Charlotte Ackerman have even developed a four-week curriculum based around the project called Critter Cams for Kids that provides a deeper foundation of knowledge about wildlife linkages and habitat fragmentation. 

To read the Daily Star article in its entirety, including photos of our youngest camera volunteers and Coalition Program & Outreach Associate Sarah Whelan, head here

You can also check out a wonderful YouTube video about the project and the curriculum that was developed to support the Critter Cams below.

Pima County adds 374 acres in Critical Wildlife Linkage

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Due to the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan’s “Off-Site Mitigation” option for property going through Pima County’s rezoning process, hundreds of acres have been obtained in fee by Pima County for the purposes of managing and maintaining the land as perpetual open space.

One of the key elements of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is protecting open space as parcels located in biologically-sensitive areas go through the rezoning process. In most cases, the property owner opts to set aside a large percentage of land on their parcel and develop just a small portion. One lesser-used option allows for the property owner to acquire and preserve land in the same area and habitat-type. The SDCP also allows a combination of both options.

In the county’s most recent Comprehensive Land Use Update (referred to as Pima Prospers), language was added to define this “off-site mitigation” option:

The following guidelines apply to properties being considered for off-site mitigation:

a.The location of off-site mitigation properties should be within the same general geographic region of the original project site;

b. Off-site mitigation property should provide the same or better resource values as the original project site including, but not limited to:

1.CLS designations inclusive of 2004 Conservation Bond Habitat Protection Priority designations or subsequent conservation bond programs;

2.Vegetation community type (s);

3.Habitat values for applicable CLS Special Species (e.g., breeding, dispersal);

4.Surface water or unique landforms such as rock outcrops;

5.Contribution to landscape connectivity; and

6.Demonstration that the resource and conservation values of the off-site mitigation property will be protected in perpetuity.

c. Off-site mitigation of IRA may include the purchase and transfer of water rights that directly impact and/or support groundwater dependent ecosystems.

Last year, three parcels in the biologically-sensitive Tortolita Fan were rezoned by RedPoint Development, Inc. These parcels total 65.78 acres, and on-site preserved as open space totaled 26 acres. As such, there was a need to find additional land to “mitigate” the disturbance. This is where the option to mitigate off the site can be used as an option to “make up for” loss of habitat on the site. For every 1 acre disturbed, 4 acres need to be acquired off-site for permanent protection as open space.

The Coalition argued strenuously that these guidelines be applied fully. The ironwood habitat of the Tortolita Fan is not only biologically-rich but we are losing much of it to development in the towns of Marana and Oro Valley and in unincorporated Pima County.

In the end, a rezoning condition was adopted by the Board of Supervisors for the developed parcels and the owner deeded Pima County 374 acres for permanent protection. Our Tucson-Tortolita mountains wildlife linkage is now another step closer to reality!

Thanks to all of you who came out to support this action at both the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Supervisors hearings!




High Country News features Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

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May 9, 2017

At the beginning of May, High Country News published a story about the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, written by local Tucson reporter Tony Davis. The story, titled “An end to Tucson’s growth wars: A conservation plan puts science ahead of politics,” is a thorough overview of the SDCP and its complex history. 

Davis calls the SDCP “one of the most aggressive and ambitious urban land conservation efforts ever taken in the Southwest.” The SDCP can be a complicated puzzle to explain. The larger vision of the SDCP itself is implemented through an array of specific policies, ordinances, and plans, all underpinned by an exhaustive scientific review shielded from political influence. Davis does an excellent job explaining all these moving parts and how they work together to create true conservation in the Sonoran Desert. 

Check out this High Country news article today to learn more about the history of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. We have been a proud partner and advocate for this plan since the very beginning – thank you for all your support for the SDCP and its ongoing implementation! 

Fun fact: The article includes a set of beautiful aerial photos taken around the Tucson region. We helped coordinate this flight for Tony Davis and the High Country News photographer through LightHawk, Inc. Lighthawk seeks to “mobilize volunteer pilots, photographers, environmental experts, and storytellers to make images, collect data, inform the public and share their experiences about some of our environment’s most critical issues, landscapes and wildlife.” Check out their website to learn more.