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Land-Use & Public Lands

Pima County Will Preserve Tumamoc Hill
(Reprinted from the April-June, 2009, Rincon Group Newsletter)

by Keith Bagwell

Pima County won state approval at auction in February to buy 320 acres of state land on Tumamoc Hill once under threat of development. The county will preserve this jewel for the study and enjoyment of future generations. The rugged hill behind Sentinel Peak is within the city of Tucson and overall is an 860-acre icon that has since 1903 been the site of the University of Arizona’s Carnegie Desert Laboratory.

The laboratory has studied Sonoran Desert flora and fauna continuously for its 105-year life, making it an invaluable repository for data on this unique desert. Pima County will be custodian of the remains of Hohokam stone terraces and walls dating to 300 B.C., of dozens of Tohono O’odham burial plots dating to the early historical period, and of the road to the laboratory that is one of the area’s most popular walking and jogging paths because of its great beauty.

The combined and dedicated efforts of Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Elías, Congressman Raúl Grijalva, other elected officials over the years, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and his staff made this purchase possible.

But the voters of Pima County also provided for the acquisition of these vital Tumamoc Hill acres by passing bonding authority for this purpose in 1997 and 2004. The county is using $2.35 million from these bond authorizations to match a $2.35 million state grant from Arizona State Parks to buy the $4.7 million parcel.

The final hurdle to the county’s Tumamoc Hill purchase was cleared when the Tucson City Council unanimously approved Member Regina Romero’s February 10 motion for the City of Tucson to take title to the 25-acre landfill it operated on the site from 1962 to 1966. The landfill is polluting ground water beneath it.

Pima County began trying to buy these Tumamoc Hill acres back in the late 1990s, but was thwarted by quirks in state law. Congressman Grijalva and former Congressman Jim Kolbe developed legislation a few years ago to get the federal government involved in preserving this land. But Senator Jon Kyl refused to cooperate.

The word Tumamoc is O’odham for horned toad, and the shape of the hill resembles this desert creature. On Tumamoc Hill, Hohokams figured out how to grow food crops in the harsh desert climate in ancient times. Centuries later, the O’odham lived and grew crops on the hill, and also used it for burial of their dead. The Native American presence on and around Tumamoc Hill and the Santa Cruz River makes this area probably the longest continuously inhabited area in the United States.

The Rincon Group applauds the county and the elected officials who acted to protect this invaluable historic, scientific - and beautiful - desert resource for future generations.

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Obama Signs Wilderness Protection Bill

Law protects acreage from Sierra Nevada mountains in California To Jefferson National Forest in Virginia:

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Protect The Sonoran Desert

Protect our Sonoran Desert &
Ironwood National Monument!

The Sonoran Desert is home to many unique and rare plants and animals, including desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, sonoran pronghorn, saguaro cactus, and ironwood trees, as well as the endangered cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl. Rapid population growth and other human modifications of the environment now threaten many species found in the Sonoran Desert.

But we can do better. In order to protect our precious desert for ourselves and future generations to enjoy and explore, we are working to ensure the strongest species and habitat protections possible under the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. This habitat conservation plan, being developed by Pima County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a public process which enables citizens just like you to help decide the future of land use in Pima County outside the Tohono O'odham reservation.

Visit the Home of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

Part of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is the protection of Ironwood Forest National Monument, a biological and cultural gem, located near Tucson. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently crafting a management plan for this monument. In order to protect the monument from nearby sprawl, mining, off-road vehicle abuses, and other harmful practices, it is critical that the BLM receives public comments urging adoption of the strongest conservation alternative in the Monument Management Plan.

Protecting the Sonoran Desert for our families and our future is a great opportunity and a great challenge. Please join us-get involved and help ensure that our children will enjoy the same quality of life that we do now.

Take Action We can protect Arizona's Sonoran Desert

Ask the Bureau of Land Management for a strong Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

For more information on the Sierra Club's work on Arizona's Sonoran Desert, please contact:

Sean Sullivan - Sierra Club Rincon Group
738 N. 5th Avenue, Suite 214
Tucson, AZ 85705

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Alaska Wilderness League Logo

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Threatened by Oil Drilling

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a 19.3 million acre refuge in the northeastern corner of Alaska. Situated between the Arctic Ocean and the Brooks Range, the Refuge covers an amazing diversity of habitat, from rugged peaks and glaciers to tundra and the coastal plain. The coastal plain is the most biologically rich part of the Refuge and helps to form one of the last completely preserved ecosystems left in North America. The Refuge is home to numerous animal species, including musk ox, polar and grizzly bears, wolves, and the largest international herd of caribou in the world.

Graphic of a Caribou The coastal plain of the Arctic has been compared to the Serengeti of North America. Every year, the 129,000 caribou of the Porcupine River Caribou Herd migrate to their calving grounds on the coastal plain. Millions of birds from as far away as Antarctica and Asia migrate to the coastal plain to nest. From Ohio, the Tundra Swan and the Semipalmated Sandpiper utilize the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as their nesting grounds.

The Threat of Oil Drilling

The Refuge was established in 1960 by President Elsenhower. In 1980, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act (ANILCA), which enlarged the Refuge to its present size. However, the Senate had to compromise in order to win final passage of the bill. The compromise called for the coastal plain of the refuge - the biological heart of the ecosystem - to be set aside for study of oil and gas potential. The Refuge contains the last 5% of the entire Alaskan coastal plain that does not already allow for oil drilling, but the petroleum industry is working to have it completely opened for oil exploration and drilling.

Even "responsible drilling" can be very harmful to the natural environment. According to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's Oil Spill Database, the oil fields of Alaska's Northern Slope have averaged over 400 oil spills a year since 1996. The U.S. Department of the Interior has estimated that the Porcupine River Caribou herd could suffer a decline of up to 40% if oil drilling takes place on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.

Six Months of Oil, Ten Years from Now

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) says that the most likely amount of oil to be found in the Arctic Refuge would be roughly the same amount of oil that the United States consumes in six months. Executives from the oil industry have further testified that it would take approximately ten years after drilling were approved before any oil from the Refuge would be available.

Drilling in the Refuge is Not Good Energy Policy

By far, the best way to increase energy security is through energy efficiency. US EPA estimates that by increasing the fuel efficiency of our cars and light trucks by 3 mpg, it will save approximately 5 times the amount of oil estimated to be under the Arctic Refuge. The United States currently consumes 25% of the world's oil, but owns only 3% of the world's proven oil reserves. It is not possible to drill our way to energy security. Drilling in the Arctic does not make good energy sense, does not increase our national security, and should not be part of the discussion over any national energy plan.

Other Backdoor Tactics

Proponents of drilling in the Arctic Refuge have tried many backdoor tactics to win passage of any bill that would allow them to put oil rigs in the Refuge. From attempts to include the proposal in the federal budget, to including it in must-pass emergency defense bills after 9/11, to tying the issue to healthcare for miners, drilling supporters have shown they are willing to say or do anything to put holes in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.

Protect the Arctic Refuge

Arizona's Senators have split on protecting the Arctic Refuge - Senator John McCain has voted to protect the Arctic Refuge and Senator John Kyl has voted for drilling. We would like both Senators to vote to protect the Refuge. Senator McCain needs to be thanked for his strong support and Senator Kyl needs to be told to change his position.

The Refuge needs protection! Write to BOTH of Arizona's Senators and tell them you want them to support protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Letter writing tips:

Make sure your letter is neat and legible and addressed to the Senators:

Senator John McCain Senator John Kyl US Senate US Senate Washington DC, 20510 Washington DC, 20510

  • In your own words, tell how important the Refuge is to you and why it deserves protection, and not oil drilling
  • Tell them that it is not good policy to destroy one of the most pristine places in North America for a speculative six-month supply of oil
  • Ask them to oppose all efforts to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • Include your name, address, and phone number

122 C Street, NW, Suite 240, Washington DC, 20001
(202) 544-5205

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