Posts Tagged ‘Tortolita Preserve’
Tucson-Tortolita Mountains Wildlife Linkage: The Latest Data and Looking Ahead
Last month we shared that we expanded this project in 2022, with cameras on either side of I-10 between the Tucson Mountains and Tortolita Mountains, and six more planned to be placed in 2023. Here are some details on what we’ve found so far!
Our project is comparing five study areas, each with four cameras placed at least 200m apart. These areas are shown in the map below: Private lands in the northern Tucson Mountain range (1), Los Morteros & Rattlesnake Pass (2), El Rio Preserve (3), the Santa Cruz River (4), and Pima County Conservation lands east of Interstate 10 called Cascada (5). These study areas make up a large part of the Tucson-Tortolita Wildlife Linkage, and each has different topography, elevation, distance to water, and other unique habitat features.
Our results show that each study area is dominated by different species, but there are common species throughout, namely mule deer, coyote, bobcat, javelina, gray fox, and cottontail rabbit. Mountain lions have only been observed on Private lands, while kit fox and badger have only been photographed on Cascada lands. El Rio is thus far the least diverse in species (it is also the smallest area and the most impacted by people), while Private lands have been the most diverse – unless you count individual bird species, and then the Santa Cruz River area has them all beat. In addition to the exciting kit fox discovery, other notable species include hooded and spotted skunks, raccoon, and Mexican free-tailed bats.
Working with Pima County, this data is already informing a project to build a wildlife ramp from the only accessible wildlife crossings near Avra Valley Road, to provide entry into the Santa Cruz River over the water levy. We are also working on gaining permanent protection for the Tortolita Preserve and planning a large wildlife bridge over I-10, and a smaller crossing structure at Rattlesnake Pass. These crossings are being designed specifically with mule deer, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep in mind, but will benefit many species.
Thank you to all of our volunteers that are instrumental to this work and to our many member groups and community partners that are collaborating on this multi-pronged project!
Join us for the Tortolita BioBlitz!
In partnership with Town of Marana Parks & Recreation, Arizona Master Naturalists, the Tortolita Alliance, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and others, we are hosting the first annual BIOBLITZ for Tortolita Preserve. Help us photograph and record as many plant and animal observations in one day as we can! How many species will we find? This data will help us protect this special place, currently a preserve under a long-term (but not permanent) lease from State Lands.
What is a BioBlitz?
A BioBlitz an event to inventory as many species as possible in a specific area during a specific time frame. Using apps like iNaturalist and eBird on smartphones, community scientists and biologists alike can collect high quality data by snapping pictures of wildlife and plants and having those observations verified by others. Data collected during a BioBlitz can be used to gain a stronger understanding of the ecosystem and may inform future research and management decisions. A BioBlitz is also an important opportunity for community members to learn about plants and wildlife, gain data collection skills, and build a stronger connection to the landscape.
Interested in volunteering? Sign up today at the event webpage for free for the time slot and distance that works for you!
CSDP’s Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno will be leading the “Tracks, Scat, and Sign Survey” at 7am. That specific event sign-up can be found here.
This is a family friendly event!
Questions? Contact Jessica at jessica.moreno@sonorandesert.
Tortolita Preserve protected in new Marana General Plan
Good news for conservation in Marana!
On December 10, 2019, the Marana Town Council approved the new draft Marana General Plan with a few major changes we requested. This includes 1) solidifying the long-term protection of the Tortolita Preserve and 2) removing a “Special Planning Area” from lands southwest of the Tortolita Preserve so these lands will remain low density if they are ever developed.
Thank you to all the community members that showed up and voiced their concerns about these issues over the last couple months, including the newly formed Tortolita Alliance! Our voices can make a difference!
If you’d like more information, you can read our full comment letter that we submitted to the Marana Town Council on December 9, 2019 and our previous comment letter submitted to the Marana Planning & Zoning Commission in September 2019. The full draft Marana General Plan is available on the Make Marana 2020 website.
You can also read two media stories about the Marana General Plan and the future of the Tortolita Preserve published in December 2019, one from Arizona Public Media and one in the AZ Daily Star.
What’s next for the Marana General Plan? Marana voters will get to vote on this new General Plan in August.
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.