Grant Awarded for Habitat Protection (AZ)

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, ARIZONA, 10/20/04:? The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that a $750,000 grant awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to the Arizona Game and Fish Department will protect land to aid in the recovery of the endangered Gila topminnow in Santa Cruz County.

The grant will go toward the acquisition of 1,900 acres in Coal Mine Canyon, critical to providing protection to the Gila topminnow, a key objective of the Service recovery plan for the species. The property abuts the 5,000-acre Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and will be managed for threatened and endangered species habitat through ownership of the land by Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“We are excited about the ability to purchase this habitat for threatened and endangered species”, said Bob Broscheid of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Our partnerships with the Trust for Public Land, the Service, and Arizona State Parks are enabling this project to proceed.”

The grant was awarded by the Service through the Recovery Land Acquisition grant program, authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This program provides federal funds to protect the habitat of threatened and endangered species in support of approved recovery plans.

“TPL is very pleased to be part of a multi-partner collaborative effort to protect this critical wildlife habitat – which also is an important watershed for Sonoita Creek – in an area that had been slated for residential development,” said Jenny Parks, Arizona State Director for the Trust for Public Land. “This federal grant provided by the Service is a critical funding component for plans by Arizona Game and Fish and TPL to acquire and protect this land. Additionally, Arizona State Parks will be managing the property for the benefit of the topminnow and other endangered species, in conjunction with its adjacent Sonoita Creek State Natural Area.”

This is the second grant awarded by the Service benefiting the recovery of the Gila topminnow. Last year a grant was awarded for the first phase of this project. Once completed, these acquisitions will protect over 4,500 acres of topminnow habitat.

Once the most common fish in the Gila River Basin, the introduction and spread of exotic predatory and competitive fishes, water impoundments and diversions, and habitat destruction and degradation reduced the distribution of the Gila topminnow to a mere fraction of its historic range. By 1967, the drastic reduction in population size prompted the Service to list the fish as endangered. Today, the Coal Mine Canyon population is one of only a few populations of Gila topminnow known to exist.

“The watershed that includes Coal Mine Canyon is one of the best remaining natural Gila topminnow sites,” said Doug Duncan, fisheries biologist with the Service in Tucson. “Acquiring this property, from a willing seller, helps protect the critically important native fish that rely on Coal Mine Canyon and its interconnecting waterways.”

The property will also provide habitat for the lesser long-nosed bat, Mexican spotted owl and the western yellow-billed cuckoo.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres of land in 45 states. TPL has been working in Arizona since 1980 to help communities protect approximately 190,000 acres of land across the state.

Posted 10/2004