Our natural environment is one of our greatest resources. People from all over the world visit southern Arizona to enjoy our beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife. Being stewards of the environment will protect the natural landscape so we and future generations can continue to enjoy it.

Arizona also has a long history of agriculture, though much of the food we buy in the grocery store has been imported from around the country and around the world. Choosing to purchase foods grown and produced locally is healthier and supports our local economy.

What is the situation…

Southeastern Arizona has a unique ecosystem, one found in only a few places around the world. It is called a Sky Island Region because the landscape is dotted with small mountain ranges, or “sky islands” which link the Rockie Mountains in the north to the Sierra Madre Occidental in the south. The plant and wildlife species you find on these “sky islands” is very different from the species you find in the desert below. Wildlife that migrates from the Rockies or the Sierra Madres into and throughout the Sky Island region must cross through the desert below to get from one mountain to another. 

The natural environment isn’t only important for plant and wildlife species. Opportunities to personally connect to the natural environment and enjoy recreational activities in urban green space are important for a healthy community. Individuals should have a place to get away from the busy city and enjoy nature.

Nature also provides an important connection to humans’ livelihood—food! Arizona has a long history of agriculture, though much of the food we buy in the grocery store has been imported from around the country and around the world. Choosing to purchase foods grown and produced locally is healthier and supports our local economy.

What are the issues…

Development driven by regional population growth is encroaching on natural habitats and the corridors wildlife use to get from one mountain to another in the Sky Island region. This threatens the biological diversity of animal species as they become increasingly isolated on individual mountains, unable to travel from one to another. When new areas are developed, it is important to consider wildlife migration paths and to leave open space intact so wildlife can continue to travel throughout the Sky Island region.

Many areas that are already highly developed are deficient in urban green space. Large areas that contain a lot of concrete, asphalt and roofs produce what is called the urban heat island effect where temperatures are higher in the city than in outlying areas. Improving access to existing urban green space and incorporating green space into new developments is important for connecting our community to nature and for mitigating the urban heat island effect. 

Although Arizona has a long history of agriculture, there are also limited water resources throughout the region. Growing foods locally that are well adapted to our climate and that do not require excessive water supplies is good for the economy and healthier for the community. 

What are the programs/policies…

City of Tucson Habitat Conservation Plan

To protect our City’s natural heritage, balance community and economic growth with the natural environment, and to comply with the Endangered Species Act, the City of Tucson is working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to create two Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs).

Urban Landscape Framework
A healthy urban landscape is vital to our quality of life. Our stewardship to both the built urban landscape environment and the natural desert ecosystem is even more important now that the population of the Tucson metropolitan area has passed the one million mark. To increase awareness and understanding about urban ecology, the City of Tucson developed an Urban Landscape Framework (ULF).

City of Tucson Parks and Recreation 10-year Strategic Service Plan (pdf)

The “Parks and Recreation Ten Year Strategic Service Plan ” provides a framework to focus staff energy, ensure progress towards common goals and assess and adjust department direction in response to an ever changing environment. The plan provides clearly defined strategic directions and goals that will guide future actions.

Santa Cruz River Restoration

Critical riparian and cienega habitats have been lost in the region due to water resource changes in Pima County. Congress authorized the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to evaluate environmental restoration potentials along the Santa Cruz River, from the north boundary of the Tohono O’Odham Nation, north to Sanders Road, in Marana. This project is divided into three sections: El Rio Medio(sponsored by the City of Tucson and Pima County), Paseo de las Iglesias(sponsored by Pima County), and Tres Rios del Norte (sponsored by the Town of Marana, the City of Tucson, and Pima County).

Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, mindful of the factual correlation between growth and the consumption of natural resources, gives high priority to preserving and protecting our most important natural resources. Growth should be directed to areas with the least natural, historic, and cultural resource values.

RTA Wildlife Linkages

As part of the RTA funding measure adopted by Pima County voters in 2006, $45 million was allocated to fund activities and projects to improve wildlife connectivity associated with transportation projects. These funds may be applied to projects that are specified by the RTA plan or to any other transportation related project, e.g., existing road retrofits.

ADOT Wildlife Linkages Workgroup

The Arizona Wildlife Linkages Workgroup is a collaborative effort between nine public agencies and nonprofit organizations. Recognizing that habitat connectivity is a landscape issue involving multiple land jurisdictions, this workgroup has engaged in unprecedented cooperation and facilitated discussions and partnerships to help ensure a unified approach to wildlife linkage conservation and management.

Arizona Growing Smarter
In 2004, Governor Janet Napolitano requested the Growing Smarter Oversight Council initiate a statewide conversation toward a vision for Arizona, and to develop a set of Guiding Principles to help Arizona not just grow, but reach for the next level in developing quality growth.

Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Action Plan

Arizona's wildlife action plan provides a strategic framework and an information resource to help conserve Arizona's terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and the lands and waters on which they depend for survival. 

Arizona Invasive Species Management Plan

Farmers’ Markets in the Tucson region

Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture

Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture, (BASA), is a 501c3 non-profit organization working to increase local sustainable food production and marketing in southern Arizona. Sustainable agriculture is good for the earth, good for people and good for communities.

Arizona Department of Agriculture

AZ Dept. of Agriculture’s mission is to regulate and support Arizona agriculture in a manner that encourages farming, ranching, and agribusiness while protecting consumers and natural resources.

Natural Resources Defense Council: Eat Local

The way we eat has an enormous impact on the health of the planet. By choosing to eat lower on the food chain, and focusing on local and organic produce, we can curb global warming and air pollution, avoid toxic pesticides, support local farmers and enjoy fresh, tasty food.