Posts Tagged ‘Multi-Species Conservation Plan’
In March 2020, Pima County released its fourth annual report on its Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSCP). The full report can be found on the Pima County website HERE. According to the Executive Summary, six Pima County capital improvement projects and 52 private development projects were “covered” by the MSCP in 2019. While these projects cumulatively had 196.8 acres of impact to the habitat of vulnerable wildlife species, the MSCP required 767.7 acres of mitigation to offset these impacts.
Some other highlights from the report include:
- The Regional Flood Control District reported that 94.5% of applicants avoided impacting regulated riparian habitat.
- The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved several land-use policies that promote reuse or infill instead of sprawl.
- U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a plan for augmenting populations of covered species on our mitigation lands, and another for managing properties along the San Pedro River.
- A new population of Gila topminnow was established in a stream on the County’s M Diamond Ranch.
- During 2019, the portfolio of potential mitigation lands increased by approximately 250 acres.
- Pima County staff, contractors, and volunteers mechanically removed or chemically treated approximately 1,470 acres of buffelgrass on County preserve lands.
- Office of Sustainability and Conservation staff made 623 separate observations on Covered Species; these were reported to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
- County staff developed comprehensive monitoring protocols for seven monitoring elements, including upland habitat, water resources, landscape pattern change, invasive aquatic and plant species, off-highway vehicles, and climate.
- County staff in partnership with Tucson Audubon Society and the National Park Service established an additional 21 long-term vegetation and soils monitoring plots on County preserve lands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The permit was used to cover impacts of 14 private development projects and 33 County Capital Improvement Projects.
- Over 200 acres of land has been allocated as mitigation so far, triggering an obligation to develop a new management plan for the Bingham Cienega Natural Preserve, a key protected area located along the San Pedro River.
- The Gila topminnow has colonized the effluent-dominated stretch of the Santa Cruz River downstream of Tucson.
- Pima County Regional Flood Control District received an in-stream flow certificate to protect water for wildlife at Buehman Canyon.
- Staff provided the first set of Biennial Inspection Reports to Arizona Land and Water Trust as evidence of our responsibility to uphold the restrictions placed on thousands of acres of mitigation lands.
- Cactus ferruginous pygmy owls were detected at least once on all properties surveyed for that species in the Altar Valley. No owls were detected in the Tucson Mountain Park.
- Tucson Audubon Society and County staff found yellow-billed cuckoos in three County riparian areas.
- County staff implemented a geodatabase housing all observations of MSCP Covered Species.
- In partnership with the National Park Service and Tucson Audubon Society, the first set of long-term soil and vegetation monitoring plots were set up and completed.
- The County has convened a new panel of experts to help inform our monitoring efforts. Please welcome: Angela Dahlby, Gita Bodner, Carianne Campbell, Andy Hubbard, Shawn Lowery, Cheryl McIntyre, and Don Swann to the new Science and Technical Advisory Team.
- The County hired Karen Simms—formerly with U. S. Bureau of Land Management—to head the Natural Resources division at the Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department.
Check out the full report here.