Posts Tagged ‘endangered species’
Coalition comments on proposed changes to the Tortolita Preserve
The Arizona State Land Department and the Town of Marana have recently begun discussions about changes to the Tortolita Preserve. This 2,400 acre preserve was established in consultation, as required by the Endangered Species Act, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as mitigation for habitat disturbance and effects to listed species resulting from the construction of the Dove Mountain development.
On October 9, 2019, the Coalition submitted comments to the Town of Marana with our recommendations on how to move forward with the future of the Tortolita Preserve. We recommend that any changes ensure the connection of the preserve with nearby core preserve areas and planned future wildlife crossings.
The full text of our comments can be found HERE.
“Marana negotiating Tortolita Preserve’s future” – Tucson Local Media (October 16, 2019)
“Neighbors, conservationists closely monitor what’s next in Marana” – KOLD13 (October 18, 2019)
We’ll be updating this post as we learn more or there is additional news coverage on this issue.
Pima County releases Aquatic Species Management Plan
In July 2019, as part of the continued implementation of their Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSCP), Pima County released a new Aquatic Species Management Plan. According to Pima County Environmental Planning Manager, Julia Fonseca:
“The Plan identifies opportunities for releasing target species on County-managed conservation lands where they do not currently occur.
The Plan inventoried streams, springs, stock tanks and large ponds for opportunities for releasing target species where they do not currently occur. Species with the most release opportunities are the Gila topminnow (15 sites) and Huachuca water umbel (14 sites). The most widespread target species on County conservation lands is the lowland leopard frog; there are eight additional sites available for future releases of this species. Opportunities at small, confined sites also exist, like the recent release of topminnow and umbel species at Mission Garden.
The Plan is a required element of the Multi-species Conservation Plan (MSCP). It supports implementation of Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AZGFD’s) priorities for the Santa Cruz watershed, as well as recovery objectives established by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Plan does not direct, authorize or fund any particular action on land owned or managed by Pima County or the Regional Flood Control District. Implementation will depend on partnerships with AZGFD and other conservation partners over the 30-year term of the MSCP.
The Plan includes guidelines prepared by USFWS for construction of wildlife-friendly water features. These guidelines may be of interest to private property owners who wish to maximize benefits and minimize risks to Arizona’s wildlife.”
We commend Pima County for their continued implementation of the MSCP since it was approved by the USFWS in 2016. And thank you for supporting the conservation of our must vulnerable Sonoran Desert wildlife species through our work advocating for the MSCP since 2000.
You can learn more about the MSCP at our Habitat Conservation Planning webpage.
Pima County releases report on 2018 MSCP achievements
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/pimac
The full 2018 MSCP Annual Report and 2018 MSCP Progress Report can be found HERE.
Endangered Gila topminnow once again swims the Santa Cruz River
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.
Lesser long-nosed bat removed from Endangered Species List
Last month, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that the lesser long-nosed is being removed from the endangered species list. The lesser-long nosed bat is one of Pima County’s Priority Vulnerable Species and is covered by the Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan.
More than anything, we are glad the bats are doing well! We support efforts to protect the bats and their maternity roosts and are pleased that this has led to increased populations. However, with climate change and other anthropogenic threats, we are cautiously optimistic that this de-listing was not premature. We’ll keep you updated as any more news is released about this important desert wildlife species. For a recent news article about the delisting, head here.
Coalition member groups win big lawsuit for pygmy owl protection
April 6, 2017
Last week, on March 29, 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife – both Coalition member groups – won an important lawsuit over the denial of endangered species protection for the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl. The new ruling establishes that the federal government must reconsider endangered species protection for this little owl, overturning a 2011 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity:
“The court also overturned a policy that made it far more difficult for species at risk of extinction in important portions of their range to gain federal protection. The pygmy owl faces serious threats to its survival in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, but the agency denied protection anyway, arguing it was secure elsewhere.”
This part of the ruling has implications for all Sonoran Desert wildlife species that are vulnerable, threatened, or endangered and we will be keeping a close eye on how this ruling impacts other species in the future.
The cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl has a long and storied history in the Sonoran Desert. The initial listing of this small owl as an endangered species in 1997 was the main spark for the creation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and the formation of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. We are gratified that, with this new ruling, the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl may once again be granted the endangered species protection it deserves.
For the full press release on this ruling, head here.
And thank you for everything you do to protect all Sonoran Desert wildlife species!
Pima County publishes its first “Annual Report” on the Multi-Species Conservation Plan
March 23, 2017
At the end of February, Pima County published its first required “Annual Report” on the implementation of the Multi-Species Conservation Plan (or MSCP). The MSCP was almost 18 years in the making and provides mitigation for impacts to 44 species in Pima County, seven of which are currently listed as endangered (scientists determined that the remaining species could become endangered over the 30-year life of the plan). The Coalition was an involved partner in the MSCP every step of the way and, with your support, advocated for the strongest conservation measures possible to be included in the plan. We continue to partner with Pima County as they implement the plan – in February, we facilitated an overflight of Pima County conservation lands by Pima County staff so they could do a “saguaro count” to assess habitat conditions. The flight was provided for free by LightHawk, Inc.
A few notable milestones outlined in the Annual Report include:
- In October 2016, Pima County permanently protected mitigation lands owned by the County or the Regional Flood Control District with restrictive covenants. This is something the Coalition strongly advocated for and we were very pleased when it finally happened.
- Private lands voluntary coverage officially began on January 9, 2017.
- The Bingham Cienega property was chosen as the first official mitigation property for impacts to habitat.
To read the full MSCP Annual report, head here.
And thank you again for all your support of the MSCP and the Coalition’s advocacy and involvement in this award-winning conservation plan!