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Archive for the ‘Donor Spotlight’ Category

Jan Johnson

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I love to volunteer! And I love being outdoors and working on projects that help the environment! Pima County is special because there are a lot of people out there that share my enthusiasm.

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection is so active in projects that protect and connect our desert. I truly enjoy giving my time to help where I can. I’m a retired real estate broker living for 53 years in Catalina, north of Tucson, where there is beautiful open space and scenic Catalina State Park nearby.

I enthusiastically enjoy helping keep our desert healthy for wildlife and all the humans who also enjoy the natural desert. I also love our beautiful Catalina mountain range and have spent a lot of time there. I have ridden horses and hiked in all the mountain ranges surrounding Tucson and beyond. Every range has something different to offer. I have a concern for keeping our Tucson and Pima County area “SPECIAL”.

I’ve been a volunteer for environmental projects with various organizations over the years in many areas of Pima County, including with the Coalition. I enjoy being a wildlife camera monitor near the new wildlife underpass beneath Oracle Road. I also helped with the vegetation project near the wildlife bridge over the last few months. Helping to plant a natural vegetation barrier near the wildlife crossing is very rewarding. So, you see, life is good! Helping with needed projects is rewarding! I encourage everyone to get involved.

Thank you Jan for all your incredibly hard work as a volunteer and Coalition supporter! 

Originally published in the Friends of the Desert newsletter – issue 49 – in Winter 2015. 

Jan Johnson working hard on the re-vegetation project adjacent to the Oracle Road Wildlife Bridge.

Chuck Graf

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As a native Tucsonan, I remember when Kolb Road was dirt, as was 22nd Street out east, and have vivid memories of riding in our family car as it dropped steeply down 22nd Street into Pantano Wash. The desert from there pretty much extended undisturbed to the Catalina and Rincon Mountains.  After my junior year at Rincon High, we moved to the Phoenix area, where I graduated from ASU and spent most of my working career as a hydrologist. 

When my wife, Mary, and I chose to move back to Tucson last year, I soon learned about the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. There was much to like—action, not talk. They had assembled a truly impressive coalition and were clearly good at working with their coalition partners, including governmental partners. They were protecting desert wildlife corridors between the mountains and getting wildlife over/underpasses built.

Talking to Kathleen Kennedy of CSDP at a local event, I found they needed volunteers to monitor new wildlife cameras in the northern Tucson Mountains, so I attended the “camera school” taught by Hannah Stitzer. I now monitor two cameras with my cam co-caretakers, Don Broomall and Aleksandra Apostolova, always optimistic about capturing great photos.

Looking out from our camera locations, I am encouraged to see that there is a still large swath of natural Sonoran Desert extending to the Tortolitas. Yes, it is encroached on in places, particularly by the I-10 crossing, but if we resolve to, we can protect it and enhance it as a viable wildlife corridor.  I picture the animals out there safely padding along on their game trails and hope that we can pass that reality to our children and grandchildren. For me, that is one great reason among many to support the Coalition.

Thank you Chuck for all your time and efforts as a camera volunteer!

Originally published in the Friends of the Desert Newsletter – issue 51 – in Summer 2016. 

Sarah McKenzie

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The Sonoran Desert intrigued and captivated me from the first day of my Tucson visit. On the second day I persuaded my husband that we should build a house near Catalina State Park. We never looked back and now make Catalina our home. As a Minnesotan transplant, I quickly learned how different the desert is from the lush Mississippi Valley (and I’m not even talking about politics). The desert is full of contradictions — tough, thorny, poisonous and at the same time, fragile, delicate and sweet. I wanted to help preserve this most amazing place.

I soon learned of the critical role the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection played in conservation in Pima County including:

  • Development of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (Pima County’s innovative and comprehensive plan for balancing conservation with development),
  • Passage of the 2004 Open Space bonds, and recently,
  • Building of the wildlife crossings on Oracle Road.

I wanted to get involved with an effective group and I found one. I volunteer with interesting like-minded people, monitoring a wildlife camera, helping with mailings, and lobbying in Phoenix.
Financial support is the life blood of a non-profit and is how it carries out its mission. I’ve found giving to be easy and satisfying by setting up an automatic monthly contribution through the

“La esperenza muera ultima. Hope dies last.
You can’t lose hope. If you lose hope, you lose everything.”
—Jessie de la Cruz, retired farm worker.

Supporting the Coalition though volunteering time and money is for me a strong antidote for the powerlessness I can feel watching the disappearing wilderness.

Thank you Sarah for all your hard work as a volunteer and your ongoing support as a monthly donor!

Originally published in the Friends of the Desert newsletter – issue 50 – in Spring 2016.

Craig Civalier

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Biodiversity became important to me in my college days. My hope then was to have the opportunity to actively do something about its preservation/conservation. Once the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) funding was approved by the voters of Pima County in 2006, I was given that opportunity. I am proud that I was part of the regional team that secured
approval and funding for the wildlife overpass and underpass on Oracle Road from the RTA and ADOT. Continuing in that spirit, I became a member of the Coalition and am active in the wildlife camera project for the overpass. The best reward has been knowing what we fought so hard to achieve is working wonderfully. Its success is something we can all point to in helping the region frame what is possible in the future.

Please join us, we can do great things together.

Thank you Craig for all your hard work as a wildlife camera volunteer and your incredible support as a monthly donor!


Susan Shobe

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I grew up in Tucson and southeast Arizona; my kids are now 3rd generation at their public school here.  My heart beams to hear my kids exclaim, “Look at the vegetation!!” after a desert rain, or “The hawks have left the nest!!”, or “Dad, you need to put more sugar water out for the hummingbirds.”  We are a part of this desert and this community, and it is a part of us. Susan Shobe

I’ve been a long-time supporter of the Coalition because I’ve been inspired by the work they’ve accomplished in protecting our vanishing wild desert areas. They truly are a coalition—building relationships and working with others to find common ground while holding true to the mission of protecting habitats that will sustain the full range of our native species to the greatest extent possible.  Their work reminds us again and again what is best about Pima County, and that the hard work and dedication to saving it really can pay off.

“We are a part of this desert and this community, and it is a part of us.”

When my husband and I had our 2nd child, we decided to become monthly donors—we find it easier to budget in a small amount each month rather than to part with a large sum at once, and it provides more certainty that we are able to meet our heart’s desire to contribute when finances are tight.  We actually contribute more now, because it’s all in small increments.  We are happy to have this option that allows us to continue to support the Coalition’s great work, and we encourage all families or others on a small or fluctuating budget to consider this option.

Julie St. John

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Julie pictureHow fortunate I am to live in the Sonoran Desert! To have this amazing backdrop of mountains, plants and wildlife always so accessible to me — whether I’m looking out the window (I can see the Catalinas from my home office), driving through town (oh how the perspective changes when you venture out of your normal routes!), or best of all, feeling the sloshy 2-liter thud as my pack swings onto my back and I start walking into my homescape.

It was love at first sight for me and the Sonoran Desert. After a couple of years, I discovered and began working in Tucson’s environmental community, diving headfirst into national and international issues. But something kept tugging at me and I finally realized it was that I wanted to give back to the sense of place and community that evolves in your life when you’re where you belong. Your homescape.

I’d belonged to a homescape before — the woods and creek of my childhood home in Ohio were (and still are!) pretty much untouched. And I think that’s what allowed me to recognize almost instantly just how special, how timeless, the Sonoran Desert is. That the creosotes outside of my house on Water Street were probably clones of clones of clones from hundreds of years before; that the former wash outside my midtown front yard had already been paying direct tributes to the Rillito for thousands of years when my house was built in 1948. These moments of awareness allow my imagination to step outside of my day-to-day reality and take a much-needed deep breath.

Ahhhhh. Mountains. Saguaros. Hawks. Javelinas. Bobcats. Snakes. Even the danged wait-a-minute bushes and shindaggers. Ahhhh. They are my neighbors, my fellow beings, they are the true, natural-born choir of the Church of Mesquitey and I feel hallelujahs rise in my heart every time I breathe it all in.

It’s not just the plants and critters that need the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection to be the catalyst behind open space preservation, habitat conservation planning, and wildlife linkages… WE ALL DO.

It’s not just the tree huggers and the greens who need the Coalition to gather and motivate our political leaders for state trust land reform and water resources policy planning… WE ALL DO.

It’s not just the air we breathe and the water we drink (plus the myriad of biological processes we are not even aware of that we need to survive) which need the Coalition to give voice to the real consequences from the proposed Rosemont Mine and other short-sighted get-rich-quick schemes… WE ALL DO.

And it’s not just me and the rest of the choir who need to give monthly support to help the Coalition protect our homescape… WE ALL DO. The Coalition’s work is essential and effective and its staff is tirelessly (and inspiringly) can-do. The steady stream of individuals’ funding for its day-to-day work allows the Coalition the flexibility to move forward strategically when opportunities present themselves. I have seen so many changes in my almost quarter of a century here, and I cannot tell you how relieved I am to know that the Coalition is here to make sure the Sonoran Desert has a voice. You all have my eternal thanks and support for all you do.

Oona, age 12

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Oona has inspired us here at the Coalition since she sent in her first donation on her birthday three years ago. She has continued to donate each year on her birthday and we are so honored to have her support our work. Oona graciously took the time to share with us why she thinks the desert is worth protecting.

I first learned about your organization because I wanted to donate for my birthday, so we looked for an organization that helped the desert. I decided to donate to the desert because it’s a very unique place and it’s really enjoyable.

I think the Sonoran Desert is worth protecting because it is a place for people to be with nature.

I think the Sonoran Desert is worth protecting because it is a place for people to be with nature. It is also home to many animals and the only place where Saguaro cacti grow. It is really amazing after rain because it’s so fresh and new and it smells like creosote.

I think your work helps protect the desert by making sure that the animals that live there are safe.

I really like the barrel cactus because it’s short, it has colorful flowers and you can play music on it by pressing its thorns down and letting them bounce back up. I also like the burrowing owl.

Once, I was hiking with my friend and I found a place that had a lot of quartz, so it looked like snow and a barrel cactus and it was really cool. We ate lunch there, but I have not found it again.

I like to rock climb, and on a hot day I like to hike to a swimming hole, and jump off the rocks into the water.

Thank you for protecting the desert!

Thank you so much Oona for being such an inspiration, for supporting our work, and for taking time to enjoy the desert!

Judith Meyer

Judith Meyer is a retired lawyer and currently a Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children in the Child Protective Services system. Judith has served on the boards of the Tucson Mountains Association (TMA), the Opening Minds through the Arts Foundation, as well as the Pima County Parks and Recreation Commission. Judith is also an avid hiker and sings with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus. We recently asked Judith to share her thoughts about the work of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection: 

I learned about the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and the Coalition’s work to promote the Plan’s goals while researching Tucson as a possible place to live in 2004. I learned also about TMA and its effort to have Pima County voters issue bonds to purchase open land for the Sweetwater Preserve. I was enormously impressed by the wisdom of the people of this community when they voted to spend their tax dollars to preserve fragile wildlife habitat and the flora and fauna it supports. But it was not until years after I moved here, when I became president of TMA, that I began to regularly read about the Coalition’s ongoing advocacy work.. The Coalition’s work epitomizes the best sort of advocacy: gentle persuasion, relentlessly applied, utilizing the scientific and political expertise of many segments of the community. Each time I read a letter from the Coalition on a current issue before one of the governmental bodies, I find it impressively researched and written.

“Coalition’s work epitomizes the best sort of advocacy.”

I have no doubt that protecting our natural desert environment, and therefore the wildlife it supports, promotes the physical, emotional and financial health of the Tucson community’s residents.  The Coalition’s diligent work is crucial as a balance to the ever-present pressure to develop more of our open space, rather than rebuild and improve already-developed areas. Given the difficult economic climate likely to prevail in America for some years to come, it is often too easy for politicians to promote short-sighted economic recovery options put forth by corporate and development interests, over the healthier long-term interests of continually improving our city’s core while preserving natural land in the city’s surrounding areas. The Coalition brings together many segments of the community, from the birders and bikers, horseback riders and hikers, to wildlife scientists and geologists, to form a large and therefore more powerful political force as a counterbalance.

“I have no doubt that protecting our desert promotes the physical, emotional, and financial health of our residents.”

When I worked on a citizen’s committee related to the Pima County Wastewater Reclamation Department, I learned about mistakes attributable, at least in part, to the City and the County failing to plan and work together on issues concerning our natural resources.  The Coalition has helped to focus the attention of local governments and other segments of the broader Tucson community on the importance of conservation to the health of the community. I am grateful to have this organization working towards the goals I support, and so I am happy to contribute.  Read the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, attend public meetings where the Coalition speaks, and I believe you, too, will want to support this organization.

Thank you, Judith, for your consistent support of the Coalition!

Mich Coker

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Mich Coker lives in Tucson and is a lawyer working for Arizona-based Farhang & Medcoff. Moving from Mississippi, Mich came to southern Arizona to attend law school and quickly fell in love with the area due to the beautiful natural environment and the amazing outdoor recreational opportunities. Mich is a self-described “birder, general nature geek, avid soccer player and world traveler.” As an enthusiastic and experienced birder, Mich joined the Tucson Audubon Society’s Board of Directors in 2005 and soon became familiar with the work of the Coalition. He recently shared his thoughts with us about the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection:

Why do you believe in the work of the Coalition?

The Coalition’s work is critical to ensuring the long-term conservation of the Sonoran Desert’s rich diversity of species and habitats. With remarkable leadership, unyielding enthusiasm, and multidimensional know-how, the Coalition and its staff do an outstanding job of staying vigilant against potential threats to our regional environment. Moreover, they routinely demonstrate mastery in bringing together various stakeholders to negotiate creative solutions to complex problems.

How is the Coalition prepared to face future challenges?

With a burgeoning population placing ever-increasing demands on limited resources, the Coalition plays an important role in fighting to preserve the ecological integrity of the Sonoran Desert. It is actively engaged with myriad issues ranging from regional transportation and urban sprawl to water conservation and wildlife corridors.

Why do you give to the Coalition?

I support the Coalition because it consistently produces great results against often-overwhelming odds. Whenever I donate my time or my money to the Coalition, I can always be confident that my contributions are going directly towards preserving the biological diversity and natural beauty of our fragile Sonoran Desert surroundings.