An Overview of The Sonoran Desert Conservation
A Vision for the Future by Conserving
Great communities are no accident. They are
born out of natural strength and beauty and have a deep respect
history, culture and diversity. They are inspired by the
vision of residents drawn to them. They are brought to maturity
hard work and investment. And they survive because of compromise
and consensus. In a sense they achieve balance. Such balance
is at the heart of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
The Sonoran Desert Conservation
Plan has been developed using science-based
by public review and discussion, resulting in a plan that
reflects community values.
Most urban areas have plans or programs that protect to some
extent natural, historical, and cultural resources and a different
set of ordinances that regulate the built environment. Pima County,
Arizona was no exception prior to the Sonoran Desert Conservation
Plan. What Pima County has now achieved is the integration of
all natural resource protection and land use planning activities
into one plan.
Origins of the Plan
In 1998 the Pima County Board of Supervisors initiated discussions
on land use planning and conservation, but redirected the battle-weary
vocabulary of the growth debate to include biological and scientific
language and concepts. This was a bold stroke by the Board – to
undertake science-based planning, and depart from placing political
considerations at the front of land use decision making.
Work on the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan fulfills three areas
of need: a science-based conservation plan, an update of the
comprehensive land use plan, and compliance with federal regulations
that protection of endangered species be addressed through a
multiple species conservation plan.
Numerous individuals and agencies with diverse backgrounds and
viewpoints recognized the importance of this effort and dedicated
time, thought, and cooperation to its success.
The initial elements of the plan to be studied were:
• Critical Habitat and Biological Corridors
• Riparian Restoration
• Mountain Parks
• Historical and Cultural Preservation
• Ranch Conservation
Planning for Sensible Growth
For several decades Pima County has undergone rapid population
expansion. It has been estimated that each year new construction
consumes approximately ten
square miles of desert. At the same time, the Sonoran Desert, rich in biodiversity,
has been identified by the Nature Conservancy as one of the top eco-regions
world-wide, deserving of special conservation attention.
The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, mindful of the factual correlation between
growth and the consumption of natural resources, gives high priority to preserving
and protecting our most important natural resources. Growth should be directed
to areas with the least natural, historic, and cultural resource values. The
Plan is not about whether Pima County continues to grow, it is about where
the county grows.
The challenge faced by citizens of Pima County is how to direct growth and
protect the lifestyle and quality of life that makes Pima County a unique and
wonderful place to live. The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan meets this challenge.Plan
The area covered in the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is 5.9 million acres
located in Pima County, Arizona which includes the Tucson metropolitan area.
It includes two major eco-regions known as the Sky Islands and the Sonoran
Desert, the second largest Native American Nation, and 850,000 residents from
diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The conservation planing effort addresses
the problems of declining natural resources and the loss of cultural identity
in one of the fastest growing parts of the country.
The Planning Process
From its inception, the Pima County Board of Supervisors fully
recognized that the success of the Sonoran Desert Conservation
Plan required the support and
approval of the people of Pima County. Pima County has made broad participation
by many agencies, organizations and interested citizens a top priority for
its conservation planning effort.
Public participation has included public meetings and comment periods, a citizens’ steering
committee of over 80 members meeting since March of 1999, over 400 public meetings,
a series of educational sessions and workshops, meetings of 12 advisory and
technical teams and numerous informal meetings held with a variety of interest
groups and concerned citizens. More than 150 scientists have contributed their
expertise. Nationally recognized peer reviewers have provided insights and
suggestions that have been incorporated.
Local jurisdictions and state and federal agencies have participated in meetings,
on committees, and as members of the Science Technical Advisory Team (STAT)
and Government Working Group, and their concerns have been made part of the
reserve design and conservation planning process. The Government Working Group
will further function as a collaborative interagency partnership with Pima
County to support and benefit from a successful implementation of the Sonoran
Desert Conservation Plan.
Geographic Information System Contributions
The availability and dissemination of high quality information was and is essential
for decision making and effective implementation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation
Plan. Decisions are critically dependent upon the quality of information.
Early in the process, the decision was made to make extensive use of Geographical
Information System (GIS) technology. This was recognized as the only feasible
approach to assemble the extensive existing data, both digital and non-digital,
identify critical gaps in the data and potential remedies, and to provide a
means for analyzing the information on biological and physical resources over
the six million acre study area. The GIS data and analytical results were used
to make science-based decisions and recommendations for action.
Contributors to the SDCP
The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan will be implemented continuously.
Plan conservation principles will guide all future land use
decisions of the County.
It will also guide where public money is spent to conserve open space, how
cultural and historic resources are protected, and how our western lifestyle
continues. The Plan will live on and guide our actions, not simply be adopted
The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is an innovative and far
reaching blueprint for growing in an intelligent and graceful
manner in Pima County. The Plan
is designed to benefit the natural systems and residents of Pima County and
to save our best lands and most precious resources for future generations to
enjoy. The Pima County Board of Supervisors invites you to join other Pima
County citizens in support of what is really an initiative to define ourselves
as a community – one that understands and respects both its potential
and its limits.
Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan
Pima County Administrator’s Office
130 West Congress, 10th Floor
Tucson, AZ 85701