Over 2,600 Acres Protected in AZ Foothills

Santa Cruz, Arizona, 12/31/04– The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) announced today the permanent protection of 2,628 acres of ranchland in Santa Cruz County. The property, valued at $3.7 million, lies in the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains and was part of the historic 20,000-acre Salero Ranch that is currently being subdivided and sold as 40-acre ranchetttes. Conservation of the property prevents residential development in this nationally-renowed birding area encompassing Coal Mine Canyon. The property will be managed for threatened and endangered species habitat through ownership of the land by Arizona Game and Fish Department.

This acquisition of Coal Mine Canyon protects an important drainage in the Sonoita Creek watershed, which has been a focus of public and private conservation efforts in recent years because of its importance as wildlife habitat. Spring-fed pools in the canyon are home to the largest known population of the Gila topminnow, a federally endangered fish, making this acquisition a key component for recovery of the species. “The watershed that includes Coal Mine Canyon is one of the best remaining natural Gila topminnow sites,” said Doug Duncan, fisheries biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 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.

“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 newly acquired property is adjacent to the 5,000-acre Sonoita Creek State Natural Area which is owned by Arizona State Parks. Under an innovative cooperative agreement between the two state agencies, the newly protected lands will be managed by Arizona State Parks as part of the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and will provide hiking, bird watching, hunting and camping opportunities for visitors.

“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 property is an important addition to a growing network of protected lands that benefit both wildlife and people through ownership by Arizona Game and Fish and management by Arizona State Parks. We are also excited that the additions of both federal funding – through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant – and a significant landowner contribution to the project allowed us to protect much more land than would otherwise have been possible.”

Funding for the purchase of the Salero Ranch property was provided by Arizona Game and Fish through the Arizona Heritage Fund, created by voter initiative in 1990 to support the protection of wildlife habitat and state parklands with Arizona lottery revenues; and through a federal grant provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Recovery Land Acquisition grant program, authorized under Section 6 of the federal Endangered Species Act. These state and federal funds were also leveraged by a significant donation in the value of the property by the landowner who sold the property to TPL and AGFD.

TPL is a national land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people as parks, greenways, wilderness areas and natural, historic and cultural resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.9 million acres nationwide. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.