Among the many propositions on the upcoming Pima County bond election is Proposition 430 which will spend $95 million on “open space land acquisition.” This is part of the County’s attempt to gain an “incidental take permit” under the endangered species act as part of the County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The County has already spent $200 million acquiring private land. Of course all the land the County purchases is removed from the tax base.
For background, see my ADI article: Whatever happened to Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan?
Most jurisdictions seeking an incidental take permit manage to get a habitat conservation plan approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service within three years. Pima County started the process in 1998 and has yet to be granted an approved plan.
The County’s bond proposal literature claims:
“As a result of the 2004 voter-approved bond measure, Pima County was able to purchase 53 properties, totaling 47,000 acres and 192 miles of rivers and washes, as well as almost 130,000 acres of State grazing leases now managed for conservation as part of working ranches. This equates to 20 percent of the lands identified in the 2004 bond ordinance as priorities for conservation. It is estimated that $95 million in bond funding could conserve approximately 20,000 acres of the remaining land conservation priorities.”
That does not seem to square with an August 28, 2009, memo from County Supervisor Chuck Huckelberry to the Board of Supervisors in which he wrote: “…that on a species by species basis, we have already acquired enough potential mitigation land to cover the take of nearly every proposed covered species for the life of the permit.”
If that statement was true, why do we need to spend $95 million on more land?
On a recent radio program Mr. Huckelberry said that the additional land would be for species that might be listed as endangered in the future, but there is no sense of urgency to acquire the additional land now.