700 Acres Protected for Sweetwater Preserve (AZ)

TUCSON, AZ, 6/29/04: Pima County and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the purchase and permanent protection of 700 acres in the Tucson Mountains as part of the Sweetwater Preserve. The property, valued at $11,730,000, is the largest remaining tract of undeveloped land in the Tucson Mountains and is home to several vanishing wildlife species including cactus pygmy owl, desert tortoise, and Gila monster. Located three miles outside of Tucson’s city limits, and just a 1/2 mile from both Saguaro National Park and the area’s newest residential subdivision, the property offers hiking, wildlife viewing, and horseback riding opportunities for nearby residents and visitors.

The property was the first purchase funded through the $174 million Pima County Sonoran Desert Open Space and Habitat Protection bond measure approved by voters in a landslide victory on May 18.

“Sweetwater is an excellent first purchase with bond funds authorized by voters in May”, said Sharon Bronson, Chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. “I would like to commend supporters in the Tucson Mountains, who worked diligently for many years to protect this parcel that contains such high biological and recreational values.”

In 2001, Tucson Mountains Association approached TPL to figure out the best way to protect the property that was in the pathway of development. In the last five years, 23 separate residential subdivisions have sprung up in the Tucson Mountains. In November 2002, TPL signed a purchase option agreement with the landowners.

“TPL is very pleased to have helped protect the Sweetwater property and further the County’s effort to add these 700 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert to the Tucson Mountain Park.” said TPL’s Project Manager Michael Patrick. “We are grateful to the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the County Administrator for their leadership in the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and this conservation acquisition, and to the Pima County voters who approved the large conservation bond fund last May that enable for protection of important open space and habitat lands like Sweetwater Preserve.”

The Tucson Mountain Association was instrumental in the effort to protect the Sweetwater Preserve and raised more than $30,000 from more than 185 individuals to help TPL and the County protect the property. Public purchase of the property received endorsements from more than fifty organizations, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, the Tucson Audubon Society, the Coalition for the Sonoran Desert Protection, the Southern Arizona Hiking Association, Pima Trails, and the Sonoran Institute among others.

“I want to express our sincere gratitude to Supervisor Richard Elias, Supervisor Sharon Bronson, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, Congressman Raul Grijalva and the Trust for Public Land, who have supported this effort for the past four years”, said Debbie Hecht, President of the Tucson Mountains Association. “Saving Sweetwater required a tremendous commitment in grassroots volunteer efforts from the people of the Tucson Mountains, including a major effort to get out the vote in support of the May open space bond measure. The best is yet to come as our children and grandchildren enjoy this pristine land.”

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, is a national, nonprofit land conservation organization specializing in conservation real estate to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. TPL has helped protect nearly 2 million acres nationwide. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.