Pima County Multi-Species Conservation Plan and EIS

Saguaro National Park in Pima County

Just over 16 years ago, in January 2000, RECON was awarded the contract to assist Pima County, Arizona, in their efforts to develop a county-wide Multi-species Conservation Plan (MSCP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The intent was to seek an Endangered Species Act Section 10 permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in order to streamline endangered species compliance for new development and formalize the County's conservation commitments.

In the ensuing years, RECON team members worked extensively with County staff, USFWS, and the appointed Science Technical Advisory Team in conducting detailed analyses and GIS habitat distribution mapping of over 50 priority species. Together we developed the Conservation Lands System (CLS), an interconnected system of conservation lands prioritized for long-term protection. The CLS, adopted as an integral part of the County's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, also identifies less sensitive areas, thereby helping to guide environmentally responsible development.

Pima County's larger regional framework for this effort is the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP), which broadly encompasses not only critical habitats, biological corridors, natural preserves, and riparian restoration but also historical and cultural resource preservation, and ranch conservation. In early support of Pima County's initiation of the SDCP, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt noted in a congressional hearing that this Plan "really is the most exciting event of its kind anywhere in the United States."

The planning process, interim documents, and research efforts to date have garnered Pima County and RECON national, regional, and state recognition, receiving awards from the American Planning Association (APA), the Arizona Chapter of APA, the Arizona Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the Local Government Commission.

The upcoming approval of the Section 10 permit, the MSCP, and the Final EIS marks a significant accomplishment by Pima County, one that RECON has been privileged to play a role in. This locally-developed plan will promote the balance of economic development and endangered species compliance for the 30-year permit period. Highlights include a permit area of ~1.3 million acres, 44 covered species (9 listed as threatened or endangered), over 1,000 GIS map layers, 15 ranches with lands used as mitigation, and over 230,000 acres managed for conservation, with over 100,000 acres owned in fee by Pima County.

Learn more at: http://webcms.pima.gov/government/sustainability_and_conservation/conservation_science/

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