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Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

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! 

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

We Stand Against the Seditious Attack on Democracy

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We want to acknowledge the seditious attack on democracy at the U.S. Capitol that occurred on January 6th, and the events that continue to unfold as a result of actions by domestic terrorists and white nationalists. At a moment such as this, we cannot be business as usual, and silence is not neutral. From the public comment process to your vote, it is the power of the people that is a central – and imperative – tenet of America’s democracy. We must move forward with a commitment to accountability and justice, and a democracy that works for everyone equally. As we pause to process and witness where we are in American history, our hope for a better future is as strong as our determination that democracy will prevail.   

Read additional statements from other groups:

500 Women Scientists: This is America Don’t Look Away

Green Latinos Statement Condemning Terrorism on Capitol Hill

 

 

The future of our Community Science Program

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As we plan for 2021, we wanted to share with you where we are with each of our community science projects, and what’s new coming on the horizon!

Volunteers have thus far contributed over 1,100 hours and 4,600 miles this year! Whether you help as a community scientist, or as a volunteer writing comment letters, stuffing envelopes, or for outreach, THANK YOU all for your continued dedication and effort on behalf of the desert and our desert wildlife. 

Monitoring the Oro Valley Wildlife Crossings

Two deer on the Oracle Road wildlife bridge in March 2020. Photo by Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The Oracle Road wildlife bridge and underpass in Oro Valley were constructed in 2016. Our cameras have been in place near here since 2012. To date we have gathered over 200,000 photos of wildlife across 52 sites. We’ve seen over 62 species, including bighorn sheep, badger, coati, and mountain lion. We currently have 28 active cameras.

In 2021, we will be reducing the number of cameras here a bit (don’t worry volunteers, you’ll be part of this team discussion!), sharing up ’til now data analysis, and settling in for a more focused monitoring effort as we finish re-vegetation efforts on the crossings and work to resolve a few remaining gaps in the wildlife fencing.

We are working in partnership with Arizona Game and Fish who is monitoring the animals using the crossing structures (over 10,000 crossings thus far!), conducting roadkill surveys, and mapping desert tortoise and mule deer movements with GPS trackers. You can see their most recent results here.

Safe Passages for Wildlife I-10 East

A bobcat uses an existing underpass in the I-10 East area. 

Our project to improve safe wildlife passage across I-10 near Cienega Creek has been underway for a couple years now. Roadkill surveys have been completed and that analysis will be available by the end of January. We have 34 active cameras that were placed early this year to track the passage rates of animals using culverts under the interstate. With over 300,000 images gathered so far (and plenty of blanks to weed out), we are still catching up on photo sorting (thank you Desert Identifiers!), but we’ve seen mule deer, whitetail deer, black bear, coati, mountain lion, ringtail, a badger, four different skunk species, and wild turkey, among many others. Here is the last video update we made of our results.

We will be extending this monitoring another year under our AZGFD Heritage Grant. So far this data has helped contribute to Pima County’s Cienega Corridor Management Plan. Improved crossings structures and wildlife funnel fencing is our goal.

Monitoring the Tucson Mountains & the Avra Valley Wildlife Corridor

Two coyote pups in the Tucson Mountains. Photo by Raynor Vandeven.

Another priority area is the northern end of the Tucson Mountains and the Avra Valley Wildlife Corridor across I-10 towards the Tortolita Mountains. CSDP has been advocating for protected open spaces here including the Tortolita Preserve and El Rio Preserve, the expansion of Tortolita Mountain Park, and protected open spaces within private developments. We also want to see wildlife crossings across the interstate. Currently, only a single abandoned railroad underpass may provide safe wildlife passage.

Since 2015, we have monitored 23 sites here, photographing more than 30 species including badger, mule deer, gray fox, and javelina. We have 16 active cameras now, but in 2021 we will be expanding this project to 22 camera sites, including in the El Rio Preserve and the Santa Cruz River, and for the first time expanding to cameras placed in the old railroad underpass and east of I-10 in newly acquired Pima County lands.

Monitoring the Proposed I-11 Route

A coyote in the proposed I-11 corridor. Photo by Raynor Vandeven.

As part of our work to fight the proposed I-11 freeway west of the Tucson Mountains that would harm Saguaro National Park West and established wildlife linkages, we placed cameras in 2016 to gather images and help outreach to local residents. This data is also used as part of our Tucson Mountains project. We currently have 2 active cameras in Avra Valley and we have photographed 14 different species, including bobcat, red-tail hawk, mule deer, coyote, and javelina. In 2021, we plan to shift these cameras to new locations to expand our reach. We are also assisting a new study that is monitoring CAP canal wildlife crossing points and following AZGFD’s work to track mule deer and bighorn sheep movements in this corridor using GPS collars.

NEW: Monitoring Sopori Wash near I-19

Just south of Canoa Ranch in the Tumacacori – Santa Rita Mountain Wildlife Linkage, Sopori Wash is a critical wildlife corridor that roughly follows Arivaca Road. We plan to work with partners and CSDP Members Groups in 2021 to start monitoring some new sites here, in relation to the I-11 route co-locating with I-19 and the possibility for wildlife crossing improvements across the Interstate.

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING COMMUNITY SCIENCE IN THE SONORAN DESERT! 

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 and all people of color. 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. We condemn the brutal killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, along with growing violence against the Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. We condemn all violence against Black people, the AAPI community, Indigenous peoples, and all people of color. We also condemn white supremacy and racism in all its overt and covert forms. We support the ongoing protests that are happening all across the country – and around the world – demanding immediate reform of police department policies and judicial systems. We also support the Stop Asian Hate movement. 

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

Outdoor Afro Phoenix

Green Latinos

Indigenous Women Hike

Latino Outdoors

Natives Outdoors

Support the AAPI Community Fund – ongoing fundraising through GoFundMe.com, the updates section shows exactly how this fund is being distributed, including a list of organizations supporting the AAPI community that have received funding thus far. 

“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. )