About the Conservation Lands System

The Maeveen Marie Behan Conservation Lands System (CLS) reconciles the need to plan and protect the tax base and provide opportunities for economic growth with the biological goal of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP).  The County comprehensive plan is guided by the CLS “roadmap” that was developed with the assistance of over 150 contributing scientists, and based on local studies of the land.

The CLS categories  are based on their values in supporting and representing biological diversity.  Each of the categories has an associated conservation guideline policy, which encourage development outside of the CLS designations.  The CLS guides the acquisition of open space and habitat conservation lands by Pima County.  Since its adoption date in 2001, Pima County has purchased over 180,000 acres within the CLS (73,000 acres fee-owned lands, and 114,000 acres of leased ranch lands).  Funding for acquisition of conservation lands was provided by the voters in the 2004 Open Space Bonds. 

The actual CLS land-use policies apply only to discretionary actions of the Pima County and the Pima County Regional Flood Control District Boards, but the more powerful idea of maintaining an interconnected landscape for biological conservation has also motivated state and federal partners to set aside conservation lands.    Today nearly 60% of the CLS in all jurisdictions is in some kind of conservation reserve status, where the land is managed to protect natural open space.  The BLM has improved the conservation status of over 174,000 acres of land, which includes the world’s principal population of the Gila topminnow, and the remaining wild (i.e. not transplanted) bighorn sheep population. The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation purchased mitigation lands within the CLS for long-term protection, and state agencies have worked with Pima County and other local governments on improving habitat conditions and improving wildlife movement opportunities across roadways.  Oro Valley adopted an ordinance that strengthens protection of Important Riparian Areas, and worked with Pima County to reserve additional CLS land in their planned annexations. 

Conservation Lands System Map     County Preserves Map

  Map of the CLS      County Preserves

Relationship between the CLS and the recently adopted Multi-species Conservation Plan

Wildlife Corridors and Connections

Pima County Connectivity Assessment

This locally-funded study by Arizona Game and Fish Department includes fine-scaled models for five wildlife linkages in Pima County.  You can also see the wildlife linkages on the SDCP Mapguide.

There is $45 million for maintaining and improving wildlife linkages in the Regional Transportation Plan.
    

For example:  Oracle Highway Wildlife Crossing
                    

Critical Landscape Connections

Critical Landscape Connections are identified by number on the Conservation Lands System map.  These are broadly defined areas (shown as purple arrows on the CLS map) that provide connectivity for movement of native biological reosurces but which also contain potential or existing barriers that tend to isolate major conservation areas.  Specifically, these regional-scale areas of located: (1) Across the I-10/Santa Cruz River corridors in the northwest; (2) Between the Catalina and Tortolita Mountains; (3) Across the I-10 corridor along Cienega Creek in the east; (4) Across the Garcia strip extension of the Tohono O'odham Nation; and (6) Across the Central Arizona Project canal in Avra Valley.  Roads, other infrastructure services, and residential and commercial land uses within these areas, depending on configuration, can result in habitat loss and fragmentation that inhibits the movement of native fauna and interrupts the pollination processes of native flora.  For more information on conservation guidelines in these areas, see policy 9 of the CLS .

County Conservation Lands - Photographs


See a Flickr gallery of photographs from County-managed Conservation Lands here

County Open Space Studies


In August of 2009, an analysis was performed on how effectively County-managed lands contributed to conservation goals for particular species and landscape features significant to the SDCP.  The analysis found that considerable progress had been made in meeting the SDCP biological goals, and the county’s ranch acquisitions had prevented fragmentation of habitats next to existing protected areas.

 

Under the Pima County Multi-species Conservation Plan, the same county conservation lands that provide water, food, recreation, wildlife habitat and a sense of place to our community also support economic development through streamlining compliance with the Endangered Species Act. A recent memorandum to the Board of Supervisors provides some specific examples of recent cost-savings to Public Works projects.

The effects of County land acquisition on the tax base was one of the central issues discussed during the development of the Conservation Plan. In preparation for the bond election of 2016, an analysis of the cumulative effects of the open-space acquisition re-affirmed earlier predictions of almost no measurable impact. The character and location of the open space acquired, and the fact that improvements are what generates the bulk of the tax base are why the open-space acquisitions have not diminished the tax base.

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Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

201 N. Stone Ave., 6th FL
Tucson, AZ 85701

(520) 724-6940


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