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Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Pima County releases report on 2018 MSCP achievements

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Last month, Pima County’s Office of Sustainability and Conservation released their latest annual report outlining the achievements of their Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan. According to an email from Environmental Planning Manager Julia Fonseca:

“Notable achievements during calendar year 2018 included:
•       The Section 10 permit covered impacts of 44 private development projects.
•       Forty-seven County Capital Improvement Projects were covered by the permit during calendar year 2018. 
•       A total of 974 acres of mitigation land was required to offset public and private impacts to habitat.  Over 4,000 acres is being allocated in the San Pedro and Cienega Creek valleys to compensate for current and future years of habitat loss.
•       The Regional Flood Control District (RFCD) estimates that the Section 10 permit saved them $200,000 in direct costs and $1.5 million indirectly due to avoided delays with one project.
•       The County developed a procedure allowing private developments to rely on Certificates of Coverage to streamline compliance with certain provisions of the County’s Native Plant Preservation Ordinance.
•       The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and USFWS allowed a developer to rely on Certificates of Coverage to meet mitigation obligations for the Pima Pineapple Cactus under an existing Section 404 permit. This saved the developer an estimated $280,000.
•       The County RFCD reported a substantial increase in the number of riparian habitat reviews over last year.  Over 95% of applicants avoided impacting regulated riparian habitat, resulting in 2,196 instances of avoidance. 
•       Pima County staff, contractors, and volunteers removed or treated approximately 1,300 acres of buffelgrass on County preserve lands, and 90 tons of garbage from illegal dumpsites.

During the past year, Office of Sustainability and Conservation staff made 1,193 separate observations on Covered Species.  For me, one of the fun outcomes of staff’s efforts are their incidental observations, for instance this video of rattlesnake courtship at https://www.facebook.com/pimacountyarizona/videos/411068969458107   (Note, rattlesnakes are not Covered Species but careful observation will keep us all safe!)”

The full 2018 MSCP Annual Report  and 2018 MSCP Progress Report can be found HERE

CSDP and the Oracle Road wildlife crossings featured on national news!

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On Saturday, April 27, a new show on NBC, “1st Look,” aired a segment after Saturday Night Live about the Coalition and our work on the Oracle Road wildlife crossings. Coalition Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno spent a long day in the field with the crew and host of the show, Johnny Bananas, in mid-March showing them the Oracle Road wildlife crossings, looking for a collared mule deer, tracking down a tortoise outfitted with a radio telemetry device, showing off one of our wildlife cameras, and more. Scientists from Arizona Game and Fish Department joined us for part of the day, along with Coalition volunteer and superstar Kathie Schroeder and her hawk Sueño. You can view the full 6-minute segment HERE or by clicking on the image below.  

And a huge thank you to all our community science volunteers and supporters that have been instrumental to this project and volunteer program! 

Volunteer Orientation

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Join us for a Volunteer Orientation!

It’s still hot outside but the weather won’t fool us. Fall is right around the corner and the Coalition is gearing up and excited to announce there are more ways than ever to get involved. That’s right – you can take action and have a direct impact on conservation here in the Sonoran Desert!

From Desert Monitors servicing cameras in the field to staffing tables at outreach events, there’s a spot for everyone to get involved. Interested in learning more about the opportunities the Coalition has to offer? Join us for one of two volunteer orientations being hosted at the end of August. Learn about how you can become hands on helping drive the work that has been protecting open spaces in Pima County for the past 20 years.

This orientation is open to veteran volunteers who may want a refresher or are interested in other volunteer opportunities along with new folks who are interested in volunteering – all are welcome! 

Check out the details in the image to the left and please RSVP to either orientation by contacting Whelan at Sarah.Whelan@sonorandesert.org

Note: We do have a specific need for new Desert Monitors  to monitor our wildlife cameras so please be in touch if this interests you! 

Check out the volunteer orientation flyer here!

Saguaro National Park adds $88 million+ to local economy

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According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service, “…964,759 visitors to Saguaro National Park in 2017 spent $60,716,800 in Tucson and other communities near the park. That spending supported 866 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $88,682,500.”

On the national level, “The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by more than 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; 255,900 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion.”

Saguaro National Park is a crown jewel of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and we are proud to have them as a community partner. Founded in 1996, Friends of Saguaro National Park is a member group of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection and works actively to “help protect wildlife and habitat, promote environmental education, improve recreational trails, enhance visitor experiences, and build environmental stewardship for the Park.”

More information and access to an interactive tool that houses the report’s data can be found in the official press release for the report. 

Endangered Gila topminnow once again swims the Santa Cruz River

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In fall 2017, local scientists had a surprising discovery in the Santa Cruz River – the return of the endangered Gila topminnow. This small inch-long fish is one of 44 species targeted by Pima County’s Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan. Scientists speculate that Pima County’s efforts to clean up the treated effluent that feeds this stretch of the Santa Cruz River contributed to the return of the Gila topminnow. 

It is always exciting and positive news when an endangered species establishes new habitat!

More information can be found in a press release by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners and a story in the AZ Daily Star

Pima County also wrote a memo that addresses how the Section 10 permit associated with the Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan helped the county save money (as compared to what they would have had to spend if they did not have a Section 10 permit) after the discovery of the Gila topminnow in the Santa Cruz River. 

Pima County open space and tax base impacts

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In May 2018, Pima County released an important memo that explains succinctly why Pima County open space properties have a positive impact on the tax base. This was in response to an allegation made by Representative Vince Leach during the state legislative session that Pima County could receive more taxes if open space lands were sold to private development. 

Some highlights from the memo include that the “findings [of a 2016 analysis] showed that the impacts to the tax base had almost no measurable impact. For example, the highest percent reduction in the primary tax base due to these acquisitions was eight thousandths of one percent. The analysis also examined the reduction in property tax revenue, the highest of which was
a loss of $20,306 in revenue in 2015, which also equated to six thousandths of one percent of the total County primary property tax revenue that year.”

Furthermore, “This analysis also cited well known ways in which conserving important natural areas benefits the tax base and tax revenues. For instance, any homebuilder can tell you that they charge lot premiums for homes adjacent to natural areas, which are then reflected in the higher taxable values of those properties, and in turn, reflect higher tax revenues from those properties. This also applies to certain commercial properties. For instance, several large resorts in Pima County have chosen to locate next to Tucson Mountain Park, Tortolita Mountain Park, and the Coronado National Forest, and promote the recreational opportunities and stunning views provided by these natural areas. Westin La Paloma Resort and J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort are in fact two of Pima County’s top 20 highest property taxpayers. This goes along with the fact that Visit Tucson, our local visitors bureau, continues to find through surveys that one of the top reasons people travel here is our natural environment.”

If this is a topic that interests you, you can find even more arguments and data to support Pima County’s conclusions in the full memo

 

Pima County purchases 3,200 acres of new open space

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Great news! On June 19, 2018, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of 3,200 acres of new open space on the east side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The Tesoro Nueve Ranch contains parts of Buehman Canyon, an important tributary to the San Pedro River and a crucial wildlife linkage between the Catalinas and the Galiuro Mountains. The property is surrounded by other open space properties owned by the County and national forest, making it an important “piece of the puzzle.” Home to a variety of threatened fish, frogs, birds, and wildlife, including coatimudi and bears, we are very excited that Pima County will be adding this property to the county parks system. 

According to a Pima County press release, “The total purchase price is $1.55 million, with $488,000 to be paid by RFCD and the balance to be paid by the County Administrator’s Special Revenue Fund at closing, scheduled to occur before Aug. 17. That fund includes $1 million received from a 2014 Kinder Morgan mitigation agreement and can’t be used for purposes other than purchasing land for conservation. No general funds will be used to acquire the property.” Furthermore, “The property was part of the estate of Katheryne B. Willock, a noted archaeologist and a generous contributor to the University of Arizona Libraries, who died in January 2017.” 

More information can be foundation at the full Pima County press release

And check out this short but wonderful video of a large troop of coatimundis taken on the property:

Emerging issues with the Oracle Road wildlife crossings create opportunities for stronger community connections.

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by Jessica Moreno

Mesh wildlife fencing along Oracle Road funnels animals to the wildlife crossings. Photo credit: Jessica Moreno.

Once a wildlife crossing is built, the project still isn’t done. CSDP has remained actively involved with the wildlife bridge and underpass project on Oracle Road since its completion, helping to install educational signage, planning re-vegetation and erosion control, engaging on emerging issues like motorized use and other encroachments, and, of course, monitoring changes in local wildlife. For little over a year, we have also been focusing on building a stronger connection with the local Rancho Vistoso HOA and with the roughly 60 homeowners living near the crossings. Javelina, coyotes, desert tortoise, and a myriad of smaller wildlife have been slipping through gaps in the wildlife-funnel fencing, resulting in a two-mile plume of roadkill extending south of the underpass on Oracle Road. These open gaps are the cul-de-sacs and drainage areas within the underpass’s adjacent HOA neighborhood, where animals can access the street and bypass the wildlife underpass. While the idea of wildlife fencing in the neighborhood is understandably undesirable for most homeowners, we have been slowly coming together to find solutions and a compromise that works for all.

 

With some exceptions (there are always a few), wildlife are excellent neighbors. Quiet, shy except around the bird feeder, we mostly don’t even see them unless we make an effort to look. Yet they provide us with spontaneous joy when do catch a glimpse. The therapeutic hum of tiny wings at the feeder during a spring rain and the bright-eyed peaceful stare of a deer in the chill morning can make time stand still. Wildlife watching from our yards and community areas is part of why many of us choose to live here. According to a 2011 report conducted by the Tucson Audubon Society, in Pima County alone wildlife watching supported more than 2,700 jobs, and directly produced $19.8 million in local and state tax revenue from over $179 million in wildlife watching related spending. In one year! It’s nice to know that the pollinator plants and binoculars I bought contribute to a thriving economy, but I’m just as happy to see the tracks of the local bobcat when I go for stroll in the evening and to add another hummingbird to my yard list.

 

It is also good to know that our wildlife crossings on Oracle Road are working wonderfully, with mule deer, javelina, bobcats, coyotes, and more using them regularly. That investment has truly paid for itself, by supporting local wildlife watching opportunities and by reducing the taxpayer and personal costs of wildlife-vehicle collisions. There have been over 2,900 animal crossings on the bridge and underpass recorded to date, and – where the wildlife funnel-fencing is complete – roadkill is down to near zero. After the surprise of tortoises and bighorn sheep last season, one of the local homeowners photographed a beautiful badger (local nighttime rodent control, at your service) near their home west of the wildlife underpass in early February. We now have evidence of badgers on both sides of the wildlife crossings, and neighbors are sharing their sightings and their stories.

Wildlife fencing along Oracle Road helps to guide animals to the crossings. Photo credit: Jessica Moreno.

Here where people and nature encroach upon each other, finding balance can be challenging. The peaceful gaze of a deer tells me that the return in our investment, and the reward, is well worth some compromise. As wildlife adapt to their changing landscape, we can continue to enjoy their presence and strive to be a community of good neighbors in return. By bringing the community together as part of the process, we all share in that success.

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. 

Action Alert: Sign on to “A Conservation Vision for Arizona’s Water Future”!

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March 30, 2017

The conservation of our water resources is essential for the future health and resilience of both people and wildlife. A group of organizations, including the Coalition and spearheaded by Coalition member group Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter, recently drafted “A Conservation Vision for Arizona’s Water Future.” This visionary document outlines the many reasons and ways we believe Arizona water policy needs to be changed and revised. More than anything, the Coalition believes environmental water needs should be considered in Arizona water policy. This includes policies that try to keep our rivers, streams, and springs flowing and subsequently support our incredible Sonoran Desert wildlife. 

The vision document states in part:

“We believe a clearer vision of water sustainability for Arizona’s future is needed, one that would:
• Consider environmental water needs and propose policies to keep rivers, streams, and springs flowing;
• Consider the water needs of rural Arizona;
• Incorporate the high probability that climate change will afflict Arizona with multidecadal droughts, increased temperatures, and diminished water supplies;
• Include new possibilities for controlling water demand through creative and strong water conservation measures; and
• Include a comprehensive economic evaluation of alternative augmentation techniques and advanced water reuse technology.”

It also concludes, “We are committed to including a broad range of stakeholders (both large and small) in the discussion, including our towns and communities, rural communities, Indian tribes, grassroots and community groups, local businesses, and the environmental community.”

Will you support “A Conservation Vision for Arizona’s Water Future” by adding your name in support of this document? We are seeking both individuals and organizations to sign on so please inform any organizations that you are involved in that this opportunity for action is available to them too. Sign on here

You can read the full vision document here

Going forward, we will be keeping you updated on how this new vision document will be used to advocate directly to Arizona’s water policy decision-makers and other ways you can be involved. 

Thank you for supporting water policies that support our environment and wildlife!