Archive for the ‘In the Spotlight’ Category

Intern Spotlight: Rob Wisler

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When did you fall in love with the Sonoran Desert? I suspect your answer and mine are the same – you fell in love the first time you wandered into it. For me, this was in early April 2009 on my first visit to Tucson. There’s something so transfixing about all of it: the majestic, arborescent Saguaro; the fascinating varieties of chollas; the stately Ocotillo; and the incredible biodiversity in terms of wildlife that though I did not see on that first visit, were very much there.

I had many options for post-grad institutions, and all things being more or less equal, academically, between different Public Administration Programs, I wanted to live in a place where I could hike and explore year-round. Clearly Tucson, in the lower Sonoran Desert and surrounded by imposing Sky Islands, fit the bill.

I’ve always been a preservationist; that value was instilled early in my life when year after year my family would visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, but that sense has greatly expanded every time I’ve stepped onto a trail here. This was the driving factor in me pursuing an internship with the Coalition. I was brought on board, first and foremost, to take on the discovery of records related to the proposed Interstate 11 project, which would run through – and destroy – the Avra Valley as it exists today. I wrote several Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple stakeholders in the process, a sometimes arduous and frustrating task but also a greatly rewarding one that revealed among many things: the legal questionability of running I-11 thru the Tucson Mitigation Corridor, a lackluster archaeological survey, the likely inappropriateness of the exclusion of Ironwood Forest National Monument from the Tier I analysis, the questionable exclusion of the potential impacts of a high speed rail between Tucson and Phoenix on traffic on I-10, ADOT’s own models showing a merely 4 minute “negligible” time saving between Nogales and Casa Grande on I-11 versus the existing I-10 at peak driving times and a “negligible” amount of truck traffic expected to move from I-10 to I-11, and an overall general Tier I analysis that could not be considered sufficient to presenting the impacts of I-11 on the environment. Though I-11 was my main focus, I also got to work on (and get a crash course in) Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, Maeveen Marie Behan Conservation Lands System, and the Multi-species Conservation Plan – all projects CSDP put considerable time and energy into developing. Finally, I was able to get my hands dirty in the field while helping install cameras.

In my time at the Coalition, I’ve been extremely lucky to be able to work with a committed group of people in Carolyn, Jessica, Whelan, and Kathleen, plus Kevin Dahl with NPCA and Cyndi Tuell with Western Watersheds Project, whom are just as good people as they are advocates. It was truly a pleasure to come in every Tuesday to the CSDP Office to work. It was as much a pleasure as it was to be with them as it is to step into the desert on an early Spring hike, and this is not something I say lightly.

The Sonoran Desert is an incredibly beautiful, timeless place, as best exemplified by its ancient Saguaros, but it is not invulnerable. Buffelgrass and other invasive species and continued, mindless sprawl are immediate, serious threats in many places. These threats are exemplified by I-11 itself and the Bighorn Fire, which though spared the majority of the lower Sonoran Desert and its Saguaros, burned (and thus killed) countless higher elevation Saguaros. Had the Bighorn Fire dipped further into the many canyons in the Catalinas, the effect of Buffelgrass would have been total devastation of the Sonoran ecosystem in those areas. Further, Climate Change threatens not just the Sonoran Desert, but landscapes (and more importantly, people) across the planet. Other additional threats exist including but not limited to: mining, overgrazing, and the border wall. But I am not resigned to defeat in the face of these – there are so many organizations in addition to the Coalition fighting these threats, too numerous to name, who are making a difference.

As for me, my future is uncertain at the moment. I graduated in May with a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Arizona and entered a world ravaged by the impacts of the Coronavirus. Thus far my employment endeavors have proven fruitless and I will likely have to leave Tucson as a result. I hope to stay connected with the Coalition and even provide help, if the need arises, particularly with regards to I-11, during my time in between finding work. Yet it is not all bad news – I’m proud of the work I was able to do that has brought important facts about I-11 into the light and I’m proud to have been part of an organization that is so committed to protecting the Sonoran Desert and its biodiversity.

A HUGE thank you to Rob from all of us at the Coalition for all your work for us and the Sonoran Desert during your internship. We are so grateful for everything you contributed to our mission and can’t wait to see what you do next! 

Animal Planet – a slam poem by Laurie Jurs

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A big thanks to Laurie Jurs for submitting the slam poem “Animal Planet” below. 

In Laurie’s words:

I have lived in the desert on five acres south of Green Valley since 1987. This slam poem is about staying home and finding out new things about a place I thought I knew well. It will best be read out loud and kind of fast. Be sure to read the TALKING word letter by letter. Cascabeles diamantinas are diamondback rattlesnakes.  Colorado sapos are Colorado River toads, which are quite large and considered ugly by many. The last four lines are from a campfire folk song. If you know it, sing it! 


June 2020

Didn’t plan it but we do it
Now we got to live through it
Stay home
Don’t roam
Shelter in place
Don’t show your face

Thought I knew my home range after 33 years
Maybe all this was always here
Thought I knew my place
But it wasn’t the case
Turns out I only scratched the surface
And it is my monkey and it is my circus
What I’m learning is giving me purpose

Noah’s Ark
Theme Park
Dark skies
Animal eyes
Brand new world with each sunrise

If there’s keys to the kingdom
They’re not mine to give
The M.O. here is Live and Let Live

Siddhartha and St. Francis
Sit beneath a tree
Whether snake or toad or rat or bee
Gotta Have a Heart
And set them free

The rats go down on the Anza Trail
Benevolent deportation
There’s been so many these last weeks
Bet they’ve started their own nation

Y los cascabeles diamantinas
Play their part in the cuarantenas
And the Colorado sapos tan grandes tan feos
Psychedelic con neurotoxicos
And the swarms of bees, blessed pollinators
Needed natural relocators
And out on the road
The monster from the Gila
Lumbers along like a mini-Godzeela

It’s surround sound, theatre in the round
Totally stereophonic, supersonic
Donkeys bray to the east
Peacocks shriek to the west
And the song dogs are certain that they’re the best

And the ravens rave over the flora and fauna
And they all party on like there’s no manana

We live in the middle of this symphony, cacophony and harmony
Thank Gaia there’s room for you and me

*  *  *  *  *

All God’s critters have a place in the choir
Some sing low and some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

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. 

Friends of Madera Canyon Joins the Coalition!

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The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection is pleased to announce the addition of a new member group, Friends of Madera Canyon. With this latest addition, our Coalition now represents 41 international, national, and local environmental and community organizations. Our member groups contribute expertise and experience and strengthen our ability to advocate for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and habitat conservation planning efforts across the region.

Friends of Madera Canyon:

Our mission is to assist the U.S. Forest Service in advancing historical, scientific, educational, and interpretive programs in Madera Canyon.

Our goals are to:

  • Heighten public interest in conservation through education;
  • Assist the U.S. Forest Service in its operations, especially in its efforts to provide rewarding recreational opportunities for all visitors; and
  • Assist in data gathering and public feedback.

Friends’ members volunteer in a wide variety of positions, ranging from  environmental education docents to performing trail maintenance to welcoming canyon visitors at the Visitor Information Station. 

Oracle Road Cleanup – Sat. Jan. 28th

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Our next Oracle Road cleanup is this Saturday, January 28th, from 8am-11am (we had previously announced the date as January 7th, but needed to reschedule). If you can help for all or any portion of the time, please let us know. We will provide breakfast food, coffee, snacks, and water to refill your water bottles.

We have adopted Oracle Road / State Route 77 from milepost 83 to 84, as part of Arizona’s Adopt-A-Highway campaign. This section of the road encompasses two of the three wildlife crossings that are slated for construction beginning in 2013. We want to demonstrate our stewardship for the area with regular highway cleanups.

This is a great opportunity to check out the crossing locations firsthand and to get all the up-to-date information about the progress of the wildlife crossings! We will also be on the lookout for signs of wildlife to document their use of the area.

Please let us know if you can help. We truly appreciate your time!

For more information:
Gabe Wigtil
Program & Outreach Associate
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection

Highway Cleanup a Success!

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On October 1st, twelve outstanding volunteers joined with Coalition staff to pick up trash along north Oracle Road between mileposts 83 and 84. This section of the road encompasses two of the three wildlife crossings that are slated for construction beginning in 2013. The roadway had been neglected for quite a while and needed a lot of work to make it clean again. Our volunteers filled 25(!) bags full of trash in just two hours! We were also saddened to find several instances of roadkill during the cleanup and know that the wildlife crossings can’t come soon enough. Our next cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, January 7, 2012. Please come out and join us as we continue our stewardship of the Oracle Road wildlife crossings!

Oracle Rd Wildlife Crossings Highway Cleanup – Oct. 1st

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Oracle Rd Wildlife Crossings Highway Cleanup
October 1st
Oracle Rd Wildlife Crossing Location

Email to help!

The Coalition has adopted Oracle Road / State Route 77 from milepost 83 to 84, as part of the Adopt-A-Highway campaign. This section of the road encompasses two of the three wildlife crossings that are slated for construction beginning in 2013. We were successful in obtaining the funding to construct these three crossings and want to demonstrate our stewardship for the area with regular highway cleanups. The area has been neglected for some time, so we need lots of help with our first cleanup!

Our first cleanup will be on October 1st, from 7am until we finish our one mile stretch of road, which we estimate should last no more than 2 hours. If you can help for all or any portion of the time, please let us know. We will provide breakfast foods, snacks, and water to refill your water bottles. More details once you sign up!

This is a great opportunity to check out the crossing locations firsthand and to get all the up-to-date information about the progress of the wildlife crossings! We will also be on the lookout for signs of wildlife to document their use of the area. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Email to help!

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

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Wednesday, August 17th, 6:30pm
The Loft Cinema
3233 E Speedway Blvd

Buy Tickets Now!
The Films

Festival Home

Discounted tickets available at Summit Hut, Antigone Books, and the Tucson Audubon Nature Shop.

Join us once again as we host the Tucson stop of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, August 17th at the Loft Cinema!

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival brings together a selection of films from the annual festival held each January in Nevada City, CA. The films speak to the environmental concerns and celebrations of our planet. “Films featured at Wild & Scenic give people a sense of place,” says Tour Manager, Susie Sutphin. “In our busy lives, it’s easy to get disconnected from our role in the global ecosystem. When we realize that the change we need in this world begins with us we can start making a difference.”

Featured films of the evening include Bag It, Walking the Line, and Wild vs. Wall. Bag It seeks to unravel the complexities of our modern plastic world. What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into a wholesale investigation into plastic and its effects on our waterways, oceans, and our bodies. Walking the Line follows thru-hiker Adam Bradley as he walks 500 miles of a proposed transmission line – a line through some of the West’s most remote landscapes – to find out how our country’s transition to renewable energy will affect the land, wildlife and people. Wild vs. Wall examines the environmental impact of the current border policy. Created by the Borderlands Campaign of the Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, this film addresses the ecological effects of enforcement and infrastructure in the four states that share boundaries with Mexico.

For more information, to volunteer, become a sponsor of this event, or to reserve a block of tickets, contact: Gabe Wigtil,, 520-388-9925

Follow the Event on Facebook!

Locally Sponsored by:

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tas-logo.jpgTucson Bird & Widlife Festival
August 17th-21st

This year’s film festival is being held in conjunction with Tucson Audubon Society’s first annual Bird & Wildlife Festival. Visitors from all over the world will be converging on Tucson for a week of birding and wildlife-related activities and we are excited to share our film festival with them as one of the featured evening programs. 

Find out more about field trips and workshops, or register online today!


 Are you looking for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Phoenix?


Creating Safe Passages Brochure

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Want to learn more about why we need to protect the Sonoran Desert’s wildlife linkages? This brochure is a clear and concise primer of the what, where, and why of wildlife linkages, including detailed maps, compelling photos, and FAQs.

Pick one up today at the Coalition office or at other locations around southern Arizona! Packs of brochures are also available for wider distribution at events and meetings. Please call 520-388-9925 to request a packet for distribution.

You can also download a version of it here. 

Prop 301 Overwhelmingly Rejected by AZ Voters!

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Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Sweep of Land Conservation Fund
Prop 301 Defeated 74-26, Reaffirming Open Space Support

Phoenix, AZ – On Election Day, Arizona voters again demonstrated their strong support for land conservation by overwhelming rejecting Proposition 301, a measure that would have allowed the legislature to raid the Land Conservation Fund and sweep it into the General Fund, where the Arizona Legislature would have determined how it would be used. 

“This is a great victory for land conservation and all of us who enjoy the amazing places that are protected with these funds,” said Carolyn Campbell, chair of the No on Prop 301 campaign and director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. “Defeat of Prop 301 also ensures that the land conservation dollars will continue to benefit our local communities as well as the education trust.”

The Land Conservation Fund was established by the voters in 1998 when we approved the Growing Smarter Act.  The dollars in this fund provide a match for communities to acquire state trust lands for conservation, including critical lands in Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan – Tumamoc Hill was acquired using these dollars – as well as lands in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Rogers Lake in Flagstaff, and more.

Legislators frequently think they know better than the voters and therefore should be able to defund, eviscerate, or otherwise dismantle voter-approved measures, including those for conservation,” said Sandy Bahr, the campaign treasurer and director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter.  “Arizona voters did not buy into the false choice presented by the Arizona Legislature and demonstrated strongly they meant what they said when they voted to establish the Land Conservation Fund."

Both Campbell and Bahr emphasized the need to adopt State Trust Land Reform as soon as possible.  “The voters have protected the funding; now we need to address the obstacles to conserving state lands in a more comprehensive manner,” said Campbell.  “We are refocusing our efforts on that now.”

The Land Conservation Fund sunsets at the end of this fiscal year, but the remaining dollars in the fund are available for communities that provide a match to conserve land.