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  • Open space donations conserve important property, aid economic growth

    Oct 22, 2020 | Read More News
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    Pima County continues to add areas set aside for conservation while still protecting the tax base and providing opportunities for economic growth, evidenced by the Pima County Board of Supervisors’ Oct. 20 approval of two land donations totaling 113 acres of natural open space. 

    “This is a real win-win,” said Jenny Neeley, program manager with the Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation. “The developer is able to move ahead with its development and some really valuable wildlife habitat will be protected for many, many years to come.”
    Cochie Canyon
    The 113-acre donation includes saguaro studded hills in Cochie Canyon just south of the County-owned Tortolita Mountain Park, as well as a portion of the Brawley Wash in Avra Valley, a tributary of the Santa Cruz River. The Brawley Wash lands also contribute to an undeveloped landscape in an area the Arizona Game and Fish Department considers important to the movement of wildlife.

    Homebuilder KB Home donated the land as an offset to the impacts of a new 32-acre housing development northwest of Tucson in the Maeveen Marie Behan Conservation Land System (CLS).  

    The CLS was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2001 as part of the County’s landmark Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and categorizes lands according to their biological value. It also establishes natural open-space mitigation guidelines for developments like the KB Homes project to follow, which helps protect the region’s important biological resources.  

    To meet the CLS mitigation guidelines, developers set aside natural open space to offset the impacts of their developments. 

    “Every development project like this one from KB Home that provides natural open space to fulfill CLS mitigation is another example that economic development and conservation are not mutually exclusive,” Neeley said. 

    Prior to 2015, nearly all CLS-required natural open space was provided within the boundaries of a development project.  Since that time, it has become more common for developers to couple their on-site natural open space with natural open space elsewhere in the CLS.  
    Cochie Canyon
    This off-site natural open space is acceptable as long it has similar biological values to the lands being developed and is protected in perpetuity. Although not required, many developers have chosen to donate land to the County for protection and management. 

    The recent KB Home donation brings high value resources into the County’s conservation land portfolio.  In total, 10 development projects have provided some portion of their CLS mitigation as off-site natural open space, which then was donated to the County.  This has added over 1,000 acres of natural open space to the County’s conservation land holdings.  

    Since its adoption, Pima County has purchased or leased more than 180,000 acres within the CLS.  Voters approved funding to purchase conservation lands through the 2004 Open Space Bonds program.