Unique Partnership Leads to Buffer Wildlife Overpass Project on Church Property

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2015

CSDP    SIA logo     TAS logo

CONTACTS:

Carolyn Campbell, Executive Director                     Jessica Moreno, Conservation Manager
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection                  Sky Island Alliance
office: (520) 388-9925; cell (520) 629-0525            office (520) 624-7080 x21
Carolyn.Campbell@sonorandesert.org                   jessica@skyislandalliance.org

Unique Partnership Leads to Buffer Wildlife Overpass Project on Church Property

 

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A white-tail deer attempts to cross Oracle Road (SR 77). Photo (c) Sky Island Alliance.

Tucson, AZ – On Friday October 15th through Sunday October 17th, volunteers from the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Sky Island Alliance, Tucson Audubon Society, and the Santa Catalina Catholic Church will work together to install irrigation and plant native plants near the new wildlife overpass in Oro Valley. The work will take place from 8am-3pm each day.

After working out a collaborative and unique land exchange between the northwest-side parish and Pima County, a vegetation project on the church’s former driveway is now moving forward.  The Santa Catalina Catholic Church is located directly south of what is soon to be the first wildlife overpass crossing structure in the Sonoran Desert.

“It has been a great project for the county, church, conservationists and volunteers to work so closely together,” said Carolyn Campbell, Executive Director of Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection.

The vegetated bridge, currently under construction on north Oracle Road, is being built by the Arizona Department of Transportation and is funded by the Pima County Regional Transportation Authority.

church

Santa Catalina Church, just south of the new wildlife overpass. Photo (c) Sky Island Alliance.

The church has long sought to create a new entrance for their Sunday services due to overflow traffic onto Oracle Road, but did not have adequate space on-site. Pima County, however, owns land adjacent to the church, originally intended as part of a wildlife habitat corridor.

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection developed a successful plan to provide an access easement through the county’s land for a new church entrance. Sky Island Alliance and Tucson Audubon will be providing expertise in habitat restoration and organizing volunteers. The church has removed pavement from the northern road adjacent to the new wildlife overpass crossing and dozens of volunteers will be creating a new desert landscape to help buffer wildlife from the church, and the church from wildlife.

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Bobcats are one of many wildlife species that call this area home. Photo by Rancho Vistoso Wildlife Camera Project.

The wildlife overpass is being built in conjunction with the widening of Oracle Road (SR 77) to six lanes. The wildlife crossing has been many years in the making and will provide a safe passage for deer, javelina, tortoises, bobcats and other animals moving across Oracle Road. Situated within the critical wildlife linkage between the Santa Catalina and Tortolita Mountains, this wildlife crossing serves a vital purpose to connect important habitat, maintain healthy wildlife populations, reduce road kill, and increase motorist safety by reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Approximately one mile south of the wildlife overpass a large wildlife underpass is also under construction.  Special wildlife fencing is being placed on both sides of Oracle Road to help guide wildlife towards both of these crossing structures, which is a key component to their success.

“We are excited to be a part of this historic project, which will serve both wildlife and public health and safety for motorists,” said Jessica Moreno, Conservation Manager at Sky Island Alliance. “We love that we can engage the community in making this project their own, and help the church at the same time.”

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection and Sky Island Alliance have been active in documenting wildlife activity near the crossing structures with motion-activated wildlife cameras and track and sign surveys. The results show a great diversity and abundance of wildlife in the area, including badgers.

For more information about the wildlife crossings and the volunteer project, visit www.sonorandesert.org and www.skyislandalliance.org.

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For print quality photos, please contact Jessica Moreno at jessica@skyislandalliance.org

 

 

Our Move

Written by Maggie Trinkle

As we leave The Historic Y, having been Sky Island Alliance’s home for the past ten years, we are excited for what this journey promises: while still close to the U and 4th Ave., we will be closer to Downtown and its amenities; we will have easier parking for staff and volunteers; a slew of awesome new neighbors; suitable storage for our field gear and a more functional workspace for our growing staff and field operations, upon which our entire organization is built.

Moving is also bittersweet.  Much like when you sell a home, there will be height measurements that we will paint over in a rush to get it ready before we had a chance to photograph it.  There will be familiar handwriting on post-its of the past that catch our sight as we box up, and memories triggered as we pull things off of walls.

Although there are nine of us are moving into our new building, the echo of the back door clanging reminds me of all the staff that have entered and left the alliance, and have shaped the organization such that we can shove off on this new journey.  We didn’t remember to get their heights measured and marked, or photos snapped before they left the building for the last time.  But the memories of those people will not be destroyed by the perils of the sea because we packed them up and took them with us.   Those people are:  Matt Skroch, Roseann Hanson, David Hodges, Trevor Hare, Janice Przybyl, Cory Jones, Acasia Berry, Jennifer Wolfsong, Rachel Kondor, Leonardo Alvarado, Aaron Hall, Camille Kershner, Bob Van Deven, Mike Quigley, Sky Jacobs, Sergio Avila, Nicole Urban-Lopez, Jennifer Shopland, Julie St. John, Moniqua Lane, Lahsha Brown, Sarah Williams, Melanie Emerson, Tom Van Devender, Mark Trinks, Jenny Neeley, Rod Mondt, Caroline Patrick, Andrew Bennett, Keri Dixon, and Nick Deyo.  Thank you, and we await your first visits, and we look forward to what lies ahead.

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Raising our glasses! Welcome to Sky Island Alliance’s new home at 406 S. 4th Avenue, Tucson, AZ. Right to left: Maggie, Jan, Allison (intern), Christopher, Carianne, Jefferson (volunteer), Louise, Bryon, Jessica and Mirna.

Student project results in new jaguar sighting

Jaguar

It is not every day a rare charismatic carnivore steps in front of a wildlife camera, especially when there is only one jaguar currently known to roam southwestern Arizona.

But that is exactly what happened to Dean Goehring, a student at Prescott College, in the process of earning his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies.

“My project was focused towards gaining an international perspective on wildlife management and conservation through scientific investigation of transfrontier focal study areas in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. Since these areas are biologically similar it was important to study the area as a greater ecosystem, despite socio-political barriers suggesting otherwise. The wildlife monitoring project took place from early June to mid-August and was conducted in the Madrean Sky Islands.

Using remote cameras, tracking skills, and observation, I was able to monitor wildlife through non-invasive techniques. Over 100 species were observed including mammals, reptiles, and birds. During my study I encountered rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and scorpions. I walked the trails used by coyotes, bears, and mountain lions. I examined the same carcass that a jaguar would later come to investigate. This was ultimately a lesson in co-existence.”

Analysis of the spot pattern confirms that this is the same jaguar that has been frequently photographed in the Santa Rita and Whetstone mountains of southern Arizona since 2011, as part of a US Fish and Wildlife Service funded study conducted by the University of Arizona.

Jaguars (Panthera onca) have been present in the borderlands of Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora for several decades, and at least one or more has been present here every year since 1997.  Evidence of jaguars, and the ability to identify individuals, comes from photographs taken by remote sensing wildlife cameras or by the occasional back-country hunter. In January 2014, two Sky Island Alliance wildlife tracker volunteers, Tim Cook and Brit Oleson, happened upon jaguar tracks while hiking in southern Arizona, mostly likely the tracks of this same Arizona jaguar.

After taking Sky Island Alliance’s Wildlife Tracking Workshop last spring, Goehring was inspired to use cross border non-invasive wildlife monitoring for his undergraduate study project.

These shy nocturnal cats are protected under the Endangered Species Act and CITES, and it is incredibly rare to see evidence of them in the wild.  It is illegal to pursue, harass or harm jaguars throughout their range. Jaguar Critical Habitat was designated in the US in 2014, which asks whether special management considerations or protection is required for federally funded projects or projects occurring on federal lands within the Critical Habitat area. The designation of Critical Habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits. Jaguars in the US are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, including the border wall and proposed open pit mining in the Santa Rita and Patagonia mountains. Mining reform and wildlife corridor protection will go a long way to protect the jaguar, which once lived and bred as far north as the Grand Canyon. In the Sonora borderlands, new Área Natural Protegida Destinada Voluntariamente a la Conservación, or Voluntary Natural Protected Areas, are providing thousands of acres of privately owned reserves for jaguars and other species.

Jaguar

Information from this new discovery has been shared with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Goehring is also sharing the wildlife data from his project with Sky Island Alliance to include with our collaborative conservation work, in partnership with National Parks and Reserves in Arizona and Sonora.

Goehring would like to give special thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ami Adams, Walt Anderson, Kathy Cooper, Jim Rorabaugh, Carlos Robles, and everyone at Sky Island Alliance.

VIDEO: SIA on The Morning Blend

Sky Island Alliance on The Morning Blend

Sky Island Alliance was selected as the Journal Broadcasting Group Community Partner for the month of July!  Watch Conservation Manager Jessica Moreno’s interview on KGUN9’s The Morning Blend.

TAKE ACTION! Benson development could suck San Pedro River Dry

TAKE ACTION! Massive Benson development could suck Kartchner Caverns and San Pedro River Dry

More data and study is needed to fully understand the impacts that Villages at Vigneto, a city-sized development proposed on 12,000 acres of private land located southwest of Benson, Arizona, would have on our community, water and natural resources. As proposed, this Tuscany-styled development would include 27,760 new homes, commercial developments, golf courses, parks, vineyards, lakes, orchards, resorts, and an extensive road and utility network. The development is intended to attract up to 70,000 new residents. Groundwater pumping would increase from 833 acre-feet per year to an estimated 10,000, and could have significant impacts to our water resources, wildlife, and quality of life.

Volunteer Heroes add Diversity in Bear Canyon

Story by Carianne Campbell

RestoreVols_HeaderSizeI have to admit, when Sky Island Alliance first took this on, I was not 100% convinced that we could make a difference in Bear Canyon, given the severity of the infestation of a wide variety of invasive plants. We have been working to increase the floral diversity around a spring that occurs in Bear Creek, an active wildlife travel corridor, with the support of Pima County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Partners for Wildlife Program, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund. This year’s spring break marks our one year anniversary working in Bear Canyon, located in Tucson, Arizona on the Coronado National Forest boundary in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Pima County owns the property, named “Rancho Fundoshi,” by its previous owner, Jack Segurson, a well-loved Tucson high school teacher and wrestling coach, apparently with a great sense of humor… a fundoshi is the loincloth of a Sumo wrestler! Mr. Segurson was committed to the preservation of the special parcel for the benefit of wildlife, and our work is furthering his legacy.

The work has been herculean.

We have removed huge stands of giant reed, excavated 60-year old oleanders, and bent rock bars on fountain grass stubbornly wedged in rock crevices. We have cleared out this piece of the canyon with an army made up of veteran Sky Island Alliance volunteers: UA students from the Blue Chip Leadership Program, Cienega Club, Bear Down Camp, and the Honors College, the Arizona Native Plant Society, and, recently, a group of 18 soldiers from all over the country completing a leadership course at Fort Huachuca. Our volunteers do not fit neatly into any one demographic, and I am thrilled about that! We’ve had kids as young as 5 years old, as well as adults who have never volunteered before; scientists visiting from the State University of New York at Fredonia; artists; and seasoned weed warriors like Marcus Jernigan and Jim Washburne, who have made eradicating weeds in natural places their favorite pastime. In total, 117 volunteers have dedicated almost 900 hours to improving this important wildlife corridor and protecting the spring. We’ve installed 284 native pollinator plants (19 species!) and are almost done at “Rancho Fundoshi.” We are now continuing this work up-canyon and into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area.

A Decade of Success in Jaguar and Ocelot Conservation

Story by Jessica Moreno
Sergio Avila checks a wildlife camera, of the old film variety, while pointing out the camera's field of view.

Sergio Avila checks a wildlife camera, of the old film variety, while pointing out the camera’s field of view.

What began in 2006 as a small jaguar monitoring and landowner outreach project has grown tremendously in the last decade. I was still a volunteer that year, following Sky Island Alliance biologist Sergio Avila both afoot and in a dusty Jeep Cherokee named Barney as we traveled eroded dirt roads, clambered over shale and shin-dagger lined slopes, and hiked through cottonwood-scented canyons to set the first wildlife cameras (using film!) in search of jaguars and a conservation ethic in the wilds of Sonora, Mexico. And we found both: at least two individual male jaguars and several ocelots living in the Sierra Azul Mountains, on a privately owned ranch property called Rancho el Aribabi.  El Aribabi’s 10,000 acres are now designated as an Área Natural Protegida Voluntariamente, or Voluntary Natural Protected Area, and the ranch is serving as a model for land stewardship in the region. Since this first exciting success for wild cats, we have continued to reach thousands of students, private landowners and volunteers, and remain directly involved in the protection and restoration of thousands of acres of land, land that serves as critical habitat and travel routes for jaguars, ocelots and other wildlife.

When I joined Sky Island Alliance as the Wildlife Linkages Program Coordinator in 2009, we made history by documenting the first living record of an ocelot in Arizona. In 2011 we recorded the first evidence of ocelots breeding in the Sky Islands, with a kitten and mother filmed on camera in Sonora, Mexico. Our data has informed the draft Ocelot Recovery Plan and helped protect local water and jaguar and ocelot habitat. We submitted detailed public comments supporting Jaguar Critical Habitat designation, including our own proposed maps pushing for corridor recognition as well as core habitat protection. In 2014, Tim Cook and Brit Oleson, two of Sky Island Alliance’s wildlife monitoring volunteers, documented the tracks of a young male jaguar in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona, just three months before Jaguar Critical Habitat was finally designated – after almost 10 years of advocacy. That same year we were awarded the prestigious Walden Woods Project 2014 Environmental Challenge Award for creating solutions to specific environmental challenges at a local, regional or national level – an award presented to us by none other than music legend Don Henley and actor Robert Redford!

Jaguar (c) Sky Island Alliance/ El Aribabi

Jaguar (c) Sky Island Alliance/ El Aribabi

Throughout the majority of the last 20 years at least one jaguar, and sometimes several at a time, have always been present in the Arizona/Sonora borderlands, and as many as 8 different individuals have been photographed to date – but the possibility remains that there are, and have been, more jaguars that we are just not seeing. Today, we know of at least one young jaguar and half a dozen ocelots that roam the Sky Islands. They are here of their own accord, patiently telling us that this is, and always has been, their home.

To help these elusive and secretive wild cats stay and thrive, Sky Island Alliance is advocating for jaguar and ocelot conservation in the region by promoting greater public understanding of the importance and benefit of carnivores; informing Critical Habitat designation; identifying and mapping their best habitat and movement corridors; analyzing motion-activated camera data to determine wild cat activity patterns and behavior; supporting non-invasive wildlife monitoring; and encouraging the designation of new protected areas and privately-owned and managed conservation lands in Sonora, Mexico.

Our conservation efforts for jaguars and ocelots have only been the tip of the iceberg, as our wildlife monitoring has led us to discover and name several new species to science, including the Black-tailed dragonfly, the Toribusi paper wasp, and a new species of the Stevia plant. We also confirmed the willowleaf oak in the Patagonia Mountains of southern Arizona as new tree for the United States.

We have developed and shared positive stories of conservation in Mexico and Arizona, of people working to protect their land, and of the wildlife that must thrive regardless of political, linguistic or cultural barriers. Overall, we erased boundaries. We are poised to do even more. With your help, what will the next ten years bring?

Want to learn more? Read Sky Island Alliance’s peer-reviewed paper, Wildlife Survey and Monitoring in the Sky Island Region with an Emphasis on Neotropical Felids, published in the proceedings of the 2012 Madrean Conference.

Our work over the last ten years with jaguar and ocelot conservation has shaped my career and outlook as a biologist and conservationist. Just knowing that jaguars and ocelots are present in our Sky Island region is one of the reasons I am passionate about what we do. Please help us continue this important work!  

La Mariquita, Área Voluntariamente Destinada a la Conservación, ¿Qué significa?

2012-12-31 10.15.31La certificación es una herramienta que ayuda a los propietarios al establecimiento, administración y manejo de sus áreas naturales protegidas privadas. Es un proceso unilateral por parte del proponente, la CONANP participa como fedatario de la voluntad de conservar sus predios y de las políticas, criterios y acciones que el promovente pretende realizar para lograr sus fines.

Este proceso es ideal para que la sociedad en general participe en la conservación de los bosques, selvas, manglares, desiertos y de la vida silvestre que habita en ellos, alentando el compromiso adquirido que tiene el hombre con la naturaleza, de respetar toda forma de vida. Esa responsabilidad implica, necesariamente, un aprovechamiento que responda a la satisfacción de necesidades básicas para la subsistencia de la especie humana, sin atentar con la sobrevivencia de las demás especies en los ecosistemas.

Este mecanismo de conservación ha sido bien aceptado por la sociedad civil, por lo que existe un importante número de reservas privadas y/o comunitarias que se han certificado en el lapso entre junio de 2002 y marzo de 2015. Actualmente se cuenta con un total de 367 áreas certificadas en 20 estados del país que significan más de 405,574.87 hectáreas y en ellas participan, entre otros, 11 grupos étnicos que involucran a cerca de 83,246 personas.

La relación que se ha desarrollado entre la CONANP, con las comunidades, ejidos o propietarios particulares que pretenden destinar sus predios a la conservación, siempre ha sido mediante el sentimiento de la buena voluntad, el interés por conservar los ecosistemas y dejando un lado la obtención de beneficios económicos por realizar una actividad loable y noble como es la de cuidar y mantener los recursos naturales, ya que la CONANP no ofrece incentivos económicos o cobra las asesorías o procesos administrativos por certificar; encauzado hacia un marco de transparencia, respeto, con los mismos ideales y objetivos que son la conservación y la bienestar social de las personas que habitan dentro de estas ANP’s, por medio del uso racional de los recursos naturales.

El compromiso de la CONANP como una institución de gobierno, es ofrecer a los proponentes un respaldo institucional ante gobiernos locales, estatales, o incluso internacionales o respaldarlos ante las ONG´s, fundaciones o cualquier fuente de asesoría o financiamiento.

Más información y preguntas frecuentes sobre estas áreas protegidas.

Experience the Sky Islands on Your Own, Experimenta las Islas del Cielo por ti mismo

Are you eager to visit and experience this memorable and incredible landscape on your own this month?

In addition to the field trips and volunteer outings on our calendar of events, we have some suggestions and resources to help you find your next favorite place – at your own time and pace. Whether you are looking for a day hike destination, local attraction, remote weekend camping spot or cozy cabin, here are some our favorite local Sky Island retreats you might enjoy!

Gabe Zimmerman Davidson Canyon Trailhead, Arizona
Aravaipa Canyon Preserve, Arizona
Kartchner Caverns and the Guindani Trail, Arizona
Axle Canyon Preserve, New Mexico
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Arizona
Rancho La Esmeralda, Sonora
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
Cochise Stronghold, Arizona
Coronado National Forest Cabins, Arizona
The Arizona Trail
Ruby Road Scenic Drive and Ghost Town of Ruby, Arizona
Madera Canyon, Arizona

We also recommend these helpful visitor guides to area attractions and current events:

Southern Arizona Guide: Recommended Dining and Lodging; Things to See and Do
Discover Bisbee, Arizona Visitor’s Guide
Tucson Attractions
Sonora Turismo

Enjoy!

Protected lands help make our Sky Islands worth visiting and living in – forever. Help protect the northern Chiricahua Mountains, Dragoon Mountains and Whetstone Mountains for the future. Learn more, and sign the petition here!


Experimenta las Islas del Cielo por ti mismo

¿Estás ansioso por visitar y experimentar este paisaje inolvidable e increíble por tu cuenta?

Además de las excursiones y salidas de voluntariado en nuestro calendario de eventos, tenemos algunas sugerencias y recursos para ayudarte a encontrar tu próximo lugar favorito. Ya sea que estés buscando un día de caminata, algún lugar de interés, o un lugar remoto para acampar el fin de semana, no podemos esperar para compartir nuestros lugares favoritos contigo!

Gabe Zimmerman Davidson Canyon Trailhead, Arizona
Aravaipa Canyon Preserve, Arizona
Kartchner Caverns and the Guindani Trail, Arizona
Axle Canyon Preserve, New Mexico
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Arizona
Rancho La Esmeralda, Sonora
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
Cochise Stronghold, Arizona
Coronado National Forest Cabins, Arizona
The Arizona Trail
Ruby Road Scenic Drive and Ghost Town of Ruby, Arizona
Madera Canyon, Arizona

We also recommend these helpful visitor guides to area attractions and current events:

Southern Arizona Guide: Recommended Dining and Lodging; Things to See and Do
Discover Bisbee, Arizona Visitor’s Guide
Tucson Attractions
Sonora Turismo

 

Sky Island Nature Watch approaches 200 new species observations!

unnamedDo bobcats, bugs, or birds visit your backyard? Have you ever noticed a tortoise or family of javalina crossing – or hit – on the road? We want to hear your stories! The Sky Island Nature Watch project brings together your plant and animal sightings for conservation – and it’s fun! Join us as we learn, enjoy and protect nature, for the benefit of people and wild places. Your observations protect habitat, increase knowledge about the biodiversity of the Sky Islands, help wildlife safely cross the road, and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Sky Island Nature Watch is a citizen science project on iNaturalist.org.  You can explore the results and species photos here!
We use this data to learn more about the diversity of plants and animals in our region, and to advocate for wildlife crossings and habitat protection. Since it was launched in the summer of 2014, the project has reached nearly 200 species observations, collected by more than 60 contributors… and growing!
Get involved!  Do you have plant and animals observations to share?
Join iNaturalist and the Sky Island Nature Watch project here!