Posts Tagged ‘wildlife linkages’
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.
What’s next for the Marana General Plan? Marana voters will get to vote on this new General Plan in August.
The short answer from our Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno is:
I recommend checking out the reviews and the beginner’s buyers guide found at www.trailcampro.com. With new models coming on the market all the time, this is a great resource for up to date recommendations and tips. You get what you pay for, so I don’t recommend anything worth less than $100. To minimize animal disturbance, choose an infrared/IR camera over white flash.
For more information, check out Jessica’s longer article in the Desert Leaf, “Wildlife (caught) on camera” which gives more details on wildlife cameras, the different ways they are used, some rules and regulations to think about depending on where you’re placing them, and what to think about when buying one.
If you do end up buying a camera and get some interesting pictures of Sonoran Desert wildlife, we’d love to see them!
Note: Another fun resource is the Backyard Wildlife of the Southwest Facebook page where wildlife enthusiasts from around the Southwest regularly post photos of wildlife taken with their wildlife cameras and regular cameras.
The Town of Marana is currently accepting public comments on its new draft General Plan – will you send the Planning and Zoning Commission a quick email today and comment on this important planning document? You can send your comments to Marana staff member Cynthia Ross at email@example.com.
If you’d like to access the full draft Marana General Plan, it can be found HERE.
We’ve drafted some talking points below if you want some guidance on what to say. We know these types of planning documents can be cumbersome and time-consuming to review. However, they are really important in how they inform local government decisions around issues such as protecting open spaces and wildlife linkages; guide the locations of new developments and roads; and shape how our communities plan for future growth.
THANK YOU for using your voice to protect open spaces and wildlife in Marana!
SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS FOR THE DRAFT MARANA GENERAL PLAN:
1. The Tortolita Preserve needs to be identified on all Town maps. The General Plan is a 10-year document and there is an 81-year period left in the lease agreement. If the Town feels that it cannot be labeled “Preserve” due to perceived requirements dictated by the Arizona State Land Department, then the land should be, at a minimum, delineated on maps and labeled as “Open Space Park.”
2. Given the investment that the Town of Marana has already made into a variety of environmental planning documents (such as a Draft Habitat Conservation Plan, the Tres Rios del Norte Feasibility Study, the Santa Cruz River Corridor Study, and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan), the Town should be developing its proposed Open Space and Wildlife Conservation Plan concurrently with the General Plan. Resource protection and conservation need to be integrated with land use plans, not viewed as an unrelated goal or addendum.
3. Wildlife connectivity open space across Tangerine Road needs to be protected and buffered. Wildlife crossings have been installed along Tangerine Road at public expense (by the Regional Transportation Authority) and need to function as they are intended. Without adequate buffers, wildlife is unlikely to use these crossings. In addition, Prospect Wash wildlife connectivity across Tangerine Road and Moore Road needs to be preserved as Natural Undisturbed Open Space and buffered appropriately. In addition to Tangerine Road, open space is necessary across Moore Road in order for wildlife movement to continue to the Tortolita Preserve and on to the Tortolita Mountains.
4. Various maps, including Future Land Use and Future Circulation, depict a new interstate, Interstate 11, running west of the Tucson Mountains. Given the current planning timeline for Interstate 11 and the fact that a Preferred Alternative Route has not been chosen, please delete the route and both spurs back to Interstate 10 from these maps. The construction of Interstate 11 is well outside of the planning horizon for this General Plan, whether Interstate 11 ends up being built as an I-10 bypass west of the Tucson Mountains or at all.
5. While many of the implementation actions listed in the Resources and Sustainability tables, if adopted and followed, will help mitigate the on-going effects of climate change, an action should be added that will “develop and implement a Climate Resilience and Emergency Readiness Plan.”
Feel free to use any or all of these talking points in your comments, or use them as guides and put them into your own voice.
The Marana Planning & Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, November 20, at 6pm at the Marana Municipal Complex, 11555 W. Civic Center Dr, Marana, AZ, 85653. Please consider attending in person and giving your comments verbally. Each person will be given 3 minutes to speak.
The Marana Town Council will also be holding a public hearing on Tuesday, December 10 at 6pm at the Marana Municipal Complex, 11555 W. Civic Center Dr, Marana, AZ, 85653. Again, each person will be given 3 minutes to speak. If the Town Council approves the draft General Plan at that meeting, it will then go to Marana voters for approval.
Our full set of comments that we have submitted to the Marana Planning & Zoning Commission can be found on our website HERE.
Thank you again for using YOUR voice on behalf of the people and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert.
Thanks to all of our supporters and volunteers for another year of successful wildlife camera monitoring in the Tucson Mountains and Oro Valley study areas! See an overview of our Tucson Mountain camera project results HERE and our Oro Valley camera project results HERE.
We have been monitoring wildlife with wildlife cameras in the northern portion of the Tucson Mountains and Avra Valley for four years. To date we’ve seen over 30 species across 23 camera sites, data which helps inform our I-11 work and knowledge about the Tucson-Tortolita Mountain Wildlife Linkage. Javelina have been photographed most frequently, and it is good to see these native seed dispersers out and about! Other notable results in the last year include more badgers, and bobcats with kittens in tow.
In Oro Valley, we have been monitoring east and west of the Oracle Road wildlife bridge and underpass for a total of seven years! We now have excellent comparative data pre- and post- construction of the crossings that were built in May 2016. With 62 species across 49 camera sites (and nearly 78,000 photos!), we are seeing lots of cottontails and quail that are plentiful prey for coyotes, bobcats, and gray foxes. We’ve seen white-nose coati and bighorn, and our resident female mountain lion has appeared again this year several times just west of the wildlife bridge.
We will post more detailed results as we finalize project reports and dive into the fun and useful information these cameras have in store!
“ARC Solutions and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation are delighted to announce the release of (Re)Connecting Wild: Restoring Safe Passage.
This film tells the remarkable story of the decade-long effort by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and its partners to improve human safety by re-connecting an historic mule deer migration that crosses over both US-93 and I-80 in rural Elko County, Nevada. Faced with hundreds of motorist crashes involving deer along these two highways, NDOT analyzed carcass and collision data, along with mule deer movement data collected by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, to identify the highest risk areas for deer-vehicle conflicts.
This analysis revealed four priorities, including 10 Mile Summit and HD Summit along US-93, and Silver Zone Pass and Pequop Summit along I-80. Armed with these priorities, NDOT set about planning a series of multi-faceted projects that ultimately resulted in the construction of five new wildlife overpasses and four new wildlife underpasses, plus connective fencing, as well as the integration of four existing vehicular underpasses that today serve as multi-use structures for both motorists and wildlife. Avoiding typical bridge designs, NDOT employed innovative, wildlife-friendly construction methods to reduce costs and construction time while also maximizing wildlife usage and acceptance.
These methods are depicted in a special time-lapse segment, which allows viewers to virtually witness construction of the wildlife crossing structures along I-80. Ultimately, NDOT’s tireless efforts have achieved its primary goal of improving human safety and welfare – as evidenced by the more than 40,000 successful crossings by wildlife at the four priority sites – while at the same time restoring safe passage for migratory mule deer to more than 1.5 million acres of summer and winter habitat.”
Want to learn lots of interesting facts about the Sonoran Desert’s mule deer? Check out CSDP Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno’s latest column in the Desert Leaf magazine. In this article, titled “Mule Deer Constellations,” Jessica follows the journey of one mule deer that was collared by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as part of the larger monitoring study of the Oracle Road wildlife crossings. Check out the article HERE to learn more about where this mule deer travels!
The full issue of the Desert Leaf can be found HERE.
Coalition staffer presents on I-10 Safe Passages Project at International Conference on Ecology and Transportation
By Myles Traphagen, Borderland Programs Coordinator, Wildlands Network
Sacramento, California was the location of the tenth biennial International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) held September 22 to 26th, 2019. Jessica Moreno, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection’s Conservation Science Director, presented the “Safe Passages for Wildlife on Interstate-10 within the Rincon-Santa Rita-Whetstone Mountains Wildlife Linkage” project, made possible by a generous grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund.
Nearly 600 delegates from 19 countries attended the four-day conference held at the Hyatt Regency directly across the street from the California State Capitol building. The vast array of topics at the conference ranged from camera trapping workshops, wildlife crossing structure design, public policy, and the state of transportation ecology around the globe.
With nearly 4 million miles of roads in the United States, and the ever-increasing paving of new roads globally (estimated to total 16 million miles by 2050), the effects of mechanized human transport on wildlife, biodiversity, and highway safety are staggering. The constant, daily stress exerted upon wildlife and biodiversity by roads cannot be ignored. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection is actively addressing this issue through a variety of projects, and the Safe Passages presentation made by Jessica at the ICOET Conference was the final presentation in the Connecting Plans to Action session, for action is our modus operandi.
The 20-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between the Highway 83 and first Benson exit is the focus of our project. It’s obvious to anybody who has driven through this stretch that the numerous drainages and arroyos, like Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek (which encompass several protected areas and important waters in the eastern Sonoran Desert), provide a natural travel corridor for animals that migrate between the Sky Island mountains north and south of I-10. This area has been a frequent zone of wildlife vehicle collisions. It’s no accident that these unfortunate “accidents” occur, because the Arizona Wildlife Linkages Assessment identified several wildlife corridors that cross right through here. This underscores the perils of the linear infrastructure like roads, railways, power lines and canals that increasingly dominate our modern world.
Now in Phase II, the I-10 Safe Passages project is using wildlife camera monitoring and roadkill surveys, along with community science engagement, to gather species-specific baseline data on wildlife passage rates and roadkill hotspots. We couldn’t do this important work without our dedicated volunteer team of “Desert Roadies” to help us with the driving surveys. Preliminary results, including a black bear mortality on August 23rd at mile marker 289 at Cienega Creek, have already begun to identify optimum locations for wildlife funnel-fencing installation, existing culvert retrofits, and new wildlife crossing structures. These data will inform State and County highway and wildlife officials on where to focus mitigation efforts to improve highway safety and minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions, and to provide justification for project funding.
In the US alone, it is estimated that there are between one and two million large animal wildlife vehicle collisions a year with hundreds of human fatalities as a result. The science of Road Ecology is attempting to reduce these occurrences by using crash analysis and GIS modeling of landscape variables that naturally funnel animals towards point specific places in their daily and seasonal movements. Progress is being made in identifying these places (like along I-10) where the greatest likelihood of wildlife collisions is predicted to occur.
With the data collected from the I-10 Safe Passages Project, we can identify and quantify wildlife vehicle collision hotspots and plan for and modify build-out plans to mitigate and respond accordingly to reduce these conflicts. In the case of the proposed Interstate 11, we support using avoidance and not building it in the first place! In the age of “Super-Commuters,” a term which the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife used to describe drivers who spend two hours each way traveling to and from work, we need to rethink our approach to highway construction and proactively mitigate for and modify the design and building of roads. To learn more about how you can help by volunteering or donating, visit us here. Keep an eye out for wildlife and drive slower, safer and less when you can.
On August 8, 2019, the Center for American Progress released a new report on the proposed Interstate 11 as part of its “White Elephant Watch” series, which “profiles projects that demonstrates the failures of the current U.S. policy approach to transportation infrastructure.”
This report provides a detailed analysis of this proposed project, including a point-by-point analysis of the Purpose and Need section of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The report concludes the following:
“ADOT’s proposed I-11 corridor has four major flaws:
- Fails to increase transportation choice or reduce local single-occupant vehicle trips made within the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas
- Promotes low-density land use and dependence on automobility
- Produces significant environmental harms
- Is based on flawed travel demand models that do not adequately account for induced demand”
Did you know that there are now five wildlife underpasses under Tangerine Road?
As part of a larger project to improve Tangerine Road, five existing drainage structures were enhanced and improved to better accommodate safe wildlife movement across this popular roadway. This is a cost-effective way to increase connectivity across roadways that is less visible to the general public (as compared to a wildlife bridge) but still very important. Construction was completed on these wildlife underpasses in Spring 2018 with the cooperation of the Town of Marana, Pima County, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, and other members of the RTA’s Wildlife Linkages Sub-Committee.
Starting in 2010, the AGFD completed pre-construction monitoring using roadkill surveys. After the underpasses were completed in Spring 2018, the AGFD started a 3-year post-construction monitoring project, including roadkill surveys and monitoring wildlife use of the crossings using wildlife cameras. According to an April 2019 progress report from AGFD:
Between May and September 2010 5,152 road mortalities representing 88 species were documented, helping to identify hot spots for future implementation of fencing and wildlife crossing structures.
[Using this data], the objectives of this construction project were to:
- Increase the size of five drainage structures and modify inlets/outlets to accommodate medium-sized mammals.
- Add funnel fencing at the crossings.
- Conduct habitat establishment evaluations, for three seasons, beginning one year after project completion, to determine whether any adaptive management measures are necessary to improve the effectiveness of the wildlife crossing structures.
Post-construction roadkill surveys began in Spring 2019. An April 2019 progress report primarily includes data from wildlife cameras installed on the underpasses and can be found HERE. A few data points and photos from the report are highlighted below:
Data has been analyzed to January 7th, 2019, this represents two full months of monitoring data for all five structures. A combined total of 1049 crossings by 17 wildlife species have been documented across all 5 structures to date. Coyote, javelina, and bobcat constitute the most commonly recorded species with 475, 365, and 130 crossings respectively, representing 93% of all documented crossings.
This is exciting news for wildlife in the Tortolita Fan and motorists along Tangerine Road. With the inclusion of wildlife fencing on either side of these five underpasses, wildlife are now being funneled to cross Tangerine Road under the roadway, leading to increased safety for wildlife and motorists.** We will share new monitoring results from AGFD when they release their next progress report on this project sometime in the next year.
Thank you for supporting connected wildlife linkages and wildlife habitat!
**Some observant community members have noted that this wildlife fencing is shorter than the wildlife fencing along Oracle Road. Why is this? The Tangerine Road wildlife fencing was designed for the medium-sized mammals that are most likely to use these smaller culvert wildlife crossings.
For 10 years we have had wildlife cameras on the landscape monitoring important linkages. We first captured photos of badgers in 2012, and they have made consistent, if rare, appearances since. Badgers are an understudied animal in Arizona and we know very little about their status in Pima County. We now have a total of 40 images of badgers across 19 camera sites, with a 27% occupancy rate (the number of cameras that detected badgers versus the total number of cameras out there). We have seen badgers at two sites in the Tucson Mountains study area, and at 8 and 9 sites West and East, respectively, of Oracle Road in Oro Valley. Our partners at Arizona Game and Fish Department confirm that one of the badgers we photographed crossed the wildlife bridge, moving east to west, earlier this year. We are diving into the data to learn more about them in our Sonoran Desert landscape, including a fun look at identifying individuals!
We thought you would enjoy these photo highlights, and a neat look at our preliminary results showing more badger activity during new moon nights than full moon nights. Why do you think badgers might be more active on new moon nights than full moon nights, when it is darkest? Badgers are nocturnal, although females may come out in the day with her young in Spring. They are also fossorial carnivores, meaning they live most of the time underground and are very good diggers. Most of their prey live in burrows as well, including ground squirrels, pocket gophers, packrats, kangaroo rats, and rattlesnakes. Badgers may be appearing on our cameras more often during the new moon for a variety of reasons. One possibility is that badger activity is correlated with prey activity, and conditions that increase hunt success. Are rodents are more active during the dark new moon than the brighter full moon, too? Can badgers, adapted to hunting at night and underground, sense their prey better on dark nights? In science, the best answers lead to more questions!
Many thanks to Pat and Henry Miller for contributing three badger photos from their own camera to our study.
If you haven’t heard it, you may enjoy Petey Mesquitey’s song “The Coyote and the Badger” on KXCI radio!