Archive for the ‘In the Spotlight’ Category
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.
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.
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:
Program & Outreach Associate
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection
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!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Wednesday, August 17th, 6:30pm
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, email@example.com, 520-388-9925
Locally Sponsored by:
Tucson Bird & Widlife Festival
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.
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.
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.
1. Arizonans have long identified preserving open space as one of their most important values. Proposition 301 was referred to the ballot by the legislature to raid the Land Conservation Fund. This is a voter-approved fund for conserving land and the only state fund dedicated to saving State Trust lands near Arizona communities. Many of these State Trust land parcels contain crucial wildlife habitat, wildlife linkages, riparian areas, and other natural resources.
2. State Trust lands comprise 35 percent of the land base in eastern Pima County (25 percent is privately-owned). The Land Conservation Fund is the only dedicated state funding to help Pima County and other communities purchase State Trust land for conservation and open space.
3. Land Conservation Fund dollars are matched dollar for dollar by communities to buy State Trust land. Together these funds primarily benefit public education. When the legislature takes this $123 million, it is really taking twice that from the schools.
4. The Land Conservation Fund benefits lands identified in Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP). With the adoption of the SDCP planning process in 1998, and the many successful implementation steps taken in the ensuing 12 years, Pima County is ahead of the curve on regional land use planning. Without the Land Conservation Fund, Pima County would not be able to afford the purchase of State Trust lands – they are simply too expensive. Biologically sensitive State Trust lands identified in the SDCP could be developed in a piecemeal fashion, resulting in unnecessary habitat destruction.
5. In recent news articles, legislators have said that by sweeping Land Conservation Fund monies into the General Fund, this money can be spent on more important things like schools and health care. However, there is absolutely no assurance the money will be spent in this way. It could just as easily be used to off-set corporate tax breaks or other priorities the legislators identify. If they intended to spend this money on schools and health care, they should have said so in Prop 301. They did not.
Prop 301 was referred to the ballot by the Arizona State Legislature for the November 2010 election and asks the voters to approve sweeping all the funds in the Land Conservation Fund into the General Fund. During the previous two legislative sessions, the Legislature tried to sweep these funds without voter approval but a judge ruled that voter approval is necessary.
The Land Conservation Fund was created by voters in 1998 as part of the Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) and is the only state fund dedicated to helping communities save State Trust land. The API itself was created by the legislature in 1996 and was designed to preserve select State Trust land parcels around urban areas for conservation. The API established a process whereby communities could purchase State Trust lands for conservation without going to auction. However, due to a lawsuit threat, this was later amended. Now, all State Trust lands must go through an official auction to the highest bidder.
By creating the Land Conservation Fund, voters authorized the state to appropriate $20 million to the Land Conservation Fund every year. This appropriation is scheduled to end in 2011. A “Growing Smarter Grant” program was created in order to disburse the monies in the Land Conservation Fund. Communities can apply for “Growing Smarter Grants” to help purchase specific State Trust land parcels for conservation. Communities must provide a dollar for dollar match to the grant. Thus, once utilized, the Land Conservation Fund dollars actually go twice as far in their benefit to Arizona schools and other beneficiaries of the State Trust.
After receiving a provisional “Growing Smarter Grant,” jurisdictions request an auction from the State Land Department. In doing this, they are taking a risk that they could be out-bid on the purchase of the State Trust land parcels. This is one reason that there is currently $123 million in the Land Conservation Fund. With that said, communities are using the Land Conservation Fund to purchase and preserve State Trust land parcels for conservation and open space. In 2009 Pima County bought 320 acres of State Trust land on Tumamoc Hill at auction for $4.7 million. Phoenix and Scottsdale have requested auctions on parcels of land in the fall of 2010 that could potentially use an additional $50 million of the Land Conservation Fund.
Arizona Preserve Initiative Timeline
The Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) was passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor.
• The API was intended to encourage the preservation of select State Trust land near urban areas for the benefit of future generations. It set up a process for specific lands to be deemed eligible for conservation and then sold to a state agency or local jurisdiction.
• State Lands within 1 to 3 miles of municipalities, dependent on population, were eligible for preservation under API. Lands must be sold at appraised market value.
• The original intent of API was to allow the acquisition of lands for conservation purchases to occur without public auction. This would ensure that the lands would not be bid on for development purposes.
Amendments to API were passed by the Legislature which expanded eligible lands in Maricopa and Pima County to a 13 mile radius surrounding incorporated areas. The Tortolita Mountains area in Pinal County became eligible for preservation through the amendments.
Voters approved a proposition which authorized funding of the program from 2000 to 2011. This proposition allocated $20 million per year to be utilized as matching funds for the purchase of State Trust lands.
Just before Tumamoc Hill was scheduled to be sold to Pima County for preservation, a group known as People for the West filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of API. They stated that the land must be sold through a public auction to the highest bidder. The case never went to court, but as a result of the filing the State does not now allow land to be sold without going to public auction.
With the assistance of a “Growing Smart Grant” from the Land Conservation Fund, Pima County purchased 320 acres of State Trust land on Tumamoc Hill for $4.7 million at public auction. Also in 2009, Pima County purchased 67.17 acres at the Valencia Site for $940,000. Pima County was the only bidder at both of these auctions.
As of March 2010, there have been 15 land sales through the API. Totaling 5,908 acres, this land has added approximately $215 million to the permanent Trust funds. There are 11 pending sale applications, totaling 15,461 acres.
Please Vote NO on Prop 301
To read the official text of the proposed amendment and ballot arguments for and against the proposition, please visit the AZ Secretary of State’s site:
On October 2-4, Bruce Gungle, a long-time supporter and friend of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection and Sky Island Alliance (SIA), will be competing solo in the Furnace Creek 508 bike race, for "Team Coonhound" (http://the508.com/). The total distance is 508 miles, to be covered within 48 hours. The course goes from Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, CA, through Mojave and Trona into Panamint Valley, over Townes Pass and into Death Valley. The race finishes in Twenty-nine Palms. Team Coonhound includes Sky Island Alliance stellar IT support, Juan Rascon and Sergio Avila, SIA’s Northern Mexico Program Manager, as crew.
Team Coonhound is raising funds to support the work of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection and Sky Island Alliance. They are asking for you to contribute whatever is significant for you. The fundraising goal is $4000, to be split equally between both organizations; Bruce has contributed $100 already. They encourage folks to pledge a certain amount per mile completed in the race (i.e., $0.25/mile = $25 should we manage 100 miles; $50 should we manage 200 miles; $100 should we manage 400 miles; or $127 should we manage to complete the entire 508 miles in the allowed time of 48 hours).
(Please note, this link will take you away from the Coalition website, but you will return after completing the pledge form.)
After the race is over we’ll send out another email letting everyone know how it went and how to make good on your pledge.
For those of you who make a pledge, a donation, or are just interested in the race, crew members will be posting periodic updates on the progress of the race that can be followed on CSDP and SIA Facebook pages.
Thanks for your support!
About our organizations:
For 12 years the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection has been hard at work ensuring that sound science and planning are brought to the table as Pima County implements and develops the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is a multi-faceted plan designed to steer commercial and residential development into less biologically sensitive areas and to preserve the more biologically sensitive parts of the County. In particular, the Coalition has ensured that this plan is based on the best available science rather than economics or politics, and has been incredibly effective at doing so.
Sky Island Alliance works to protect and restore the native species and habitats of the sky island region in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and the adjacent Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Sky Island Alliance works to document the presence and movement of wild cats, to understand their needs of core habitat and corridors, and to ensure that safe monitoring techniques are used to achieve these ends (http://www.skyislandalliance.org/jaguars.htm ). The Bring Back the Cats! Campaign was initiated by a couple of donors who feel, as Team Coonhound does, that it’s important to ensure that jaguars and ocelots once again roam our mountains and our imaginations here in the U.S.