Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

During Pandemic, Community Scientists Adapt to Save the Desert

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 4, 2020

Contact:

Jessica Moreno, Jessica.Moreno@sonorandesert.org, (520) 388-9925

Carolyn Campbell, Carolyn.Campbell@sonorandesert.org, (520) 629-0525

During Pandemic, Community Scientists Adapt to Save the Desert

Tucson, AZ – The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection is celebrating their Volunteer Appreciation Week on September 7-12, 2020, this year virtually. The nonprofit organization made swift changes to accommodate remote work, shutdowns, and social distancing in the last six months since the pandemic hit, in an effort to reduce negative impacts on volunteers and support their ability to do science. Despite current challenges, the Coalition’s community scientist volunteers have kept up their enthusiasm to protect the Sonoran Desert.

“It wasn’t long ago that we had volunteers shoulder to shoulder together with 400 students for Critter Cam Field Day in Catalina State Park last March. Things have changed a lot since then,” says Jessica Moreno, the Coalition’s Conservation Science Director. “But I’m amazed at the participation and community spirit volunteers have shown during this time.”

The Coalition is an alliance of 30 member groups representing over 30,000 members, and has a small staff of four, with a mission to protect the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona through science-based advocacy, education, and collaboration. Their successes in protecting open space and advocating for wildlife crossings is largely due to their grassroots advocacy approach and the more than 60 active volunteers helping behind the scenes. Volunteers check wildlife cameras, sort wildlife photos, conduct roadkill surveys, help with outreach, and more.

New volunteers have joined since the pandemic began and, like college student Andres Martinez, are signing up family members to join them in the field, helping keep field teams within their own “social bubbles.” Other volunteers, like Patrick McGowan and Butch Farabee, are wearing masks and keeping social distance while they hike to check wildlife cameras as “Desert Monitors.” Some take their spouses along, or alternate field days with teammates. Staff deliver batteries and other field supplies on volunteer’s porches, rather than having people visit the office.

Jane “Middy” Henke is a “Desert Identifier” volunteer with the Coalition, who used to come into the office every Tuesday to sort and identify animals photographed by wildlife cameras. The Coalition changed over to a new database system so volunteers could work from home, with optional weekly virtual meeting hours to work together. “Now we can review the photos from our home computers to assign the species and number of animals we observe,” says Henke. “The current challenge for me is working out which type of skunk I may be seeing in a night photo, and maybe puzzling as to whether the nose appearing in the corner of a picture is that of a mule deer, or if it belongs to a white-tail deer!”

Volunteer Appreciation Week, from September 7 to September 12, was created as a virtual celebration to replace events canceled last April. “We want to recognize the significant impact our volunteers make, and thank them for their commitment as we shift procedures to address the effect the pandemic is having on them, and on their work doing wildlife studies,” says Executive Director Carolyn Campbell. “They are the backbone of our work.”

“More than ever right now I think people are looking for empowering and restorative things to do, ways to make a difference, and ways to connect,” says Moreno. “What we are seeing is really hopeful.”

For print-quality images, please contact Jessica Moreno at Jessica.Moreno@sonorandesert.org

 

Coalition volunteer Henry Miller checks a wildlife camera located next to a wildlife crossing in Oro Valley. Photo credit: CSDP.

 

Coalition volunteers Josh Skattum and Samantha Wilber traverse a rugged road to reach their field site. Photo credit: CSDP.

 

Desert Monitor volunteers help the Coalition by checking wildlife cameras, like this one, placed on the landscape. Photo credit: CSDP.

 

Our 2020 Strategic Plan lays out our vision for the future

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After a year-long process of internal reflection and evaluation, surveying our key stakeholders, and working closely with our Board of Directors, we recently finalized our 2020 Strategic Plan. We are excited to share this with you and hope you are inspired to continue walking with us on this path towards a protected Sonoran Desert for all. 

We’d love for you to read through our Strategic Plan and be inspired to join us as we continue passionately pursuing our goals and objectives in the months and years ahead. Thank you for your ongoing support – it is an essential component to this important work!

 

We Stand in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter and All People of Color

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The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. There is no way to do the work of healing and nurturing the natural world in a silo. As residents of the Earth and citizens of the World, the mounting cases of violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color reveal how connected we all are and compel us to speak out in support for Black Lives Matter. We condemn the brutal killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. We condemn all violence against Black people. We support the protests that are happening all across the country – and around the world – demanding immediate reform of police department policies and judicial systems.

The same political/economic system that is destroying our natural world is also systematically victimizing people of color, indigenous people, and poor people in general. In this historic time, it is so clear that environmental justice and racial justice are not two separate causes but part of the same mandate. We need to work together to transform that system into one that eliminates police brutality, environmental degradation, and inequality under the law. We need to redefine the American Dream to reflect a new vision of peace and justice that encompasses social and environmental justice.

Kelly Burke from Wild Arizona says it well:
We believe that the future of conservation is intrinsically tied to the building of a new America, because our deeper cultural history is inescapable; indeed this past is our present. How do we want to identify as a culture moving forward? We cannot protect our amazingly diverse landscapes and their diverse inhabitants until we are a compassionate, inclusive, equitable, and tolerant nation, embracing our cultural diversity. What nature offers now, as it has during the pandemic, is healing, and the inspiration and motivation to fight for an America free of oppression, exploitation, and systemic racism.

We at the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection will continue to look for all intersections between our basic mission and the making of this “new America.”

“You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Resources for further learning and taking action

158 Resources to Understand Racism in America (Smithsonian Magazine)

Dear White People, This is What We Want You to Do (Kandise Le Blanc)

Tucson Black-Owned Businesses (spreadsheet compiled by Roux Events)

Black Lives Matter Tucson

Black Voters Matter

Arizona Coalition for Change

Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund

The Dunbar Pavilion: An African-American Arts and Culture Center (located in Tucson)

NAACP Tucson Branch

Outdoor Afro Phoenix

Green Latinos

(Thank you to Coalition member group Sky Island Alliance for sharing many of these websites.)

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

New wildlife cameras generate spectacular photos

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Thanks to a new partnership with volunteer, welder, and ecology student Raynor Vandeven, there are now four wildlife cameras out in the field with professional photography equipment capturing images of Sonoran Desert wildlife. These cameras are located in an area along the proposed I-11 route, in the Tucson Mountains, near the Oracle Road wildlife crossings, and in the I-10 East wildlife linkage area. 

We are so grateful to Raynor for his willingness to share these images with the Coalition and can’t wait to start sharing more of them with you in the weeks and months ahead! 

(Note: the photos below are examples of Raynor’s wildlife photography and were not taken in the locations described above. )

 

 

 

Tortolita Preserve protected in new Marana General Plan

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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 and our previous comment letter submitted to the Marana Planning & Zoning Commission in September 2019. The full draft Marana General Plan is available on the Make Marana 2020 website

You can also read two media stories about the Marana General Plan and the future of the Tortolita Preserve published in December 2019, one from Arizona Public Media and one in the AZ Daily Star

What’s next for the Marana General Plan?  Marana voters will get to vote on this new General Plan in August.

What types of wildlife cameras do we use?

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Interested in purchasing a wildlife camera for yourself or as a gift for family or friends? 

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. 

Arizona suspends efforts to take over provisions of Clean Water Act

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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!

 

The latest numbers from our wildlife camera program

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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!

New video about Nevada wildlife crossings worth a watch

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Our friends at Wildlands Network shared a new short film about wildlife crossings in Nevada – it’s well worth watching! From their email about the film:

“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.”

YouTube: https://youtu.be/NK-mvhPMokY

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/357164380

Mule Deer Constellations, a new article in the Desert Leaf

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This mule deer was captured by our STITZER wildlife camera, monitored by volunteers Lisa Caprina and Doug Vollgraff.

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