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Community Engagement

Financing Green Infrastructure: Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) is an “ambitious, community-driven, multi-species habitat conservation and urban growth planning process…intended to eventually set aside approximately 440,000 acres to help preserve sensitive species and critical wildlife habitat” (Friends of Saguaro National Park). In addition to habitat preservation, the plan aims to preserve cultural and historical resources. The SDCP emphasizes the community’s desire to preserve its quality of life, and the economic stability provided by nature based tourism.

Implementation of the SDCP, which is largely land acquisition based, is “estimated to cost $40 million to $2 billion, depending which lands are protected. A commonly cited number is $500 million over 5 years” (The Conservation Fund).

Funding for the SDCP has been provided, in large part, by two community-supported open space bonds from 1997 and 2004 (Pima County). The community has also approved funding ($45 M) for wildlife crossings from a 2006 transportation plan (Pima County). While this additional fund appropriation as well as those provided by a variety of conservation organization and partners (Pima County) will aid in the development and maintenance of the SDCP, the primary goal of land acquisition for habitat preservation is currently depending on the two open space bonds.

The following is a breakdown of the expenditures of the two bonds based on data from Pima County, and how they relate to the goal of setting aside 440,000 acres for habitat protection as well as cultural and historic resource preservation. In addition, 127,000 acres of ranch land has been acquired while being maintained as working ranches.

Bond          Funds          Spent          Land Acquired (acres)          Price Per Acre           Total Investment

1997           27.9 M        27.9M         7,200                                        $3,900                        $28,080,000

2004          164.3 M      157 M         45,300 (+127,000)                 $3,500                        $158,550,000

Totaled the average price per acre was $3,555 with 52,500 acres being purchased for $186,630,000.  Subtracting the addition of ranch lands from the recommended 440,000 acres managed leaves 313,000 acres in total to be acquired.

Acres To Be Acquired          Acres Acquired          Acres Remaining          Average Price Per Acre          Total Funding Needed

313,000                                  52,500                         260,500                          $3,555                                        $926,077,500

The information provided above shows a substantial need of nearly $1B for further funding. While great progress has been made it must be questioned how much the community of Pima County can exclusively support the SDCP. While implementing the plan will likely increase tourism in the area and provide an increase in economic prosperity, there is still a large financial need if the SDCP is to reach full implementation. Recommendations made for funding alternatives rely heavily on increased taxes, raising further questions about community responsibility. Additional options include private funding and PR campaigns, which as of yet, seem to have paid minimal dividends.

The maps from Pima County show recommended land acquisitions, and the areas in which lands have been acquired over the course of the implementation.


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