City Vision

The natural environment is one of Tucson’s greatest resources. People from all over the world visit Tucson to enjoy the beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife. Opportunities to personally connect to the natural environment and enjoy recreational activities in urban green space are important for a healthy community. Garden herbs and vegetables are healthy and accessible, and promote localizing food sources. Green space also helps reduce the urban heat island effect. The U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement that Mayor and Council endorsed on September 6, 2006 includes goals for increasing urban green space, protecting the natural environment, and promoting local food production. These goals are driving the City’s efforts as part of a larger sustainability vision.

Nature and Food related elements of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement:

• Reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities.

• Maintain urban green space and promote tree planting to increase shading and to absorb CO2

    This page is dedicated to providing information about the City of Tucson’s departments, codes, plans, programs, and resources related to Nature and Food.


    City Departments

    Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development

    Tucson’s Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development (OCSD). We collaborate with City departments, community and interest groups, nonprofit organizations, and other partners to protect and enhance the integrity of our unique Sonoran Desert ecosystem, improve the environmental quality and livability of the urban environment, and support a vibrant local economy.

    Urban Landscape. Visit this site to learn more about the City’s Urban Landscape Project.
    Irene Ogata, Urban Landscape Manager, (520) 837-6960

    Department of Parks and Recreation
    Parks and Rec develops and manages the City’s park system and related facilities, programs, and services.


    Advisory Committees

    Resource Planning Advisory Committee (RPAC)

    Advise the Mayor and Council on regional economic objectives, including the orderly and efficient development of certain private and State Trust lands, recognizing property rights and legal and physical land-use constraints, and planning for conservation in a manner that promotes consistency between the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and the City of Tucson General Plan and Pima County Comprehensive Plan; and for contributing to regional conservation planning efforts in eastern Pima County.

    Habitat Conservation Plan Technical Advisory Committee (HCP TAC)

    Public participation plays an important role in the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) process. Members of the community guide the development of the City’s HCPs through participation in the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Resource Planning Advisory Committee (RPAC).

    Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC)

    The Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC) was created by Mayor and Council Action in 1990. The LAC functions in an advisory capacity to the Mayor and Council on matters pertaining to the design, management, planning and policy of Tucson's vegetation.

    Stormwater Advisory Committee (SAC)

    Advise on stormwater management issues.

    Parks Commission

    The City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Commission serves as a citizen advisory panel to the Mayor and Council. The Commission's role is to make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council regarding: recreational activities and park facilities within the City; operations and maintenance policy and procedures; user fees; park development; and park name changes.


    City Plans, Codes, and Programs

    Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs)

    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).

    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).

    Xeriscape Landscaping and Screening Ordinance
    The Xeriscape Landscaping Ordinance became effective in February 1991. This comprehensive landscape code applies to new multifamily, commercial, and industrial development. One of the goals of this ordinance is to conserve water by using established xeriscape principals in landscape design. The regulations require the use of drought-tolerant plants from a published list and limits non-drought tolerant vegetation to small "oasis" areas. Contact the City Clerk’s Officefor a copy of the ordinance.

    WaterSmart Workshop Schedule. WaterSmart classes teach homeowners the basics of landscape water conservation through informative workshops based on the principles of xeriscape. Approximately 500 residents of Tucson and surrounding areas attend classes each year to learn techniques and applications for water-efficient landscaping compatible with the urban desert landscape.

    Native Plant Preservation Ordinance (NPPO) 
    A Native Plant Preservation Plan is required in order to develop most property in Tucson. The NPPO plan shows how the native plants on a project site will be preserved, relocated or replaced. Specific trees, shrubs, succulents and cacti are protected by law. These protected species are listed in the City of Tucson Land Use Code. Information regarding the NPPO submittal requirements and review process can be found in section 3.8 of the Land Use Code and Section 2-16 of the Development Standards

    Water Harvesting Ordinance
    The City of Tucson Land Use Code addresses water harvesting requirements in sections,, and The focus of these ordinance sections is on harvesting rainwater to supplement on-site irrigation of vegetation. 

    On October 18, 2005, the Mayor and Council passed an Ordinance (number 10210) adopting the Water Harvesting Guidance Manual for use by developers in planning a strategy to implement water harvesting for new developments, including City projects. The manual is primarily directed toward commercial developments, subdivision common areas, public buildings and public rights-of-way, but the concept designs and configurations are easily adapted for residential lot use. The Water Harvesting Guidance Manual provides information on water harvesting techniques, their appropriate placement, and the context of water harvesting in site design. It also addresses engineering considerations and landscape considerations, among other relevant topics.

    Hillside Development Zones (HDZ)
    The HDZ is an overlay zone adopted by the City that is added to the existing zoning of a property. The mountainous areas surrounding Tucson exhibit steep slopes, which may contain unstable rock and soils. Since development in these areas can be hazardous to life and property, construction methods that ensure slope stabilization and minimize soil erosion should be used. Specifics about the HDZ process can be located in section 2.8.1 of the Tucson Land Use Code and section 2-12 of the Development Standards.

    Riparian Preservation Codes and Policies:
    The City of Tucson has a long-standing commitment to preserving watercourses in their natural state. The initial City direction for regulation of watercourses was the adoption of the Interim Watercourse Improvement Policy (IWIP) by the Mayor and Council on June 27, 1988. The IWIP contains specific policies that encourage the preservation of natural watercourses and the design of landscaped, natural-appearing channels. The IWIP also contains policies restricting the use of concrete for bank protection and channelization. 

    Riparian Habitat within the City is protected through 3 regulations:

    1. Watercourse Amenities, Safety and Habitat (W.A.S.H.) Ordinance
    Chapter 29, Article VIII was adopted by Mayor and Council on March 25, 1991 to implement the Interim Watercourse Improvement Policy, to protect existing vegetation near specific washes, to provide for restoration of vegetation along disturbed wash reaches, to reduce heat island effects and to aid groundwater recharge.

    2. Environmental Resource Zone (ERZ) The ERZ was adopted as a zoning regulation to preserve open space, particularly the critical and sensitive habitats linked with public monuments, forests and preserves.

    3. The Floodplain and Erosion Hazard Management Code (Chapter 26) provides for the management of uses and development in floodplains to protect the public from flooding and to protect riparian habitats. All proposed developments within the 100-year floodplain must be reviewed for compliance with these regulations. Any development in the 100-year floodplain requires a floodplain use permit that must be approved by the City Engineer.

      All watercourses with a 100-year discharge of 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) or more are regulated under the Floodplain and Erosion Hazard Management Code (Chapter 26). WASH and ERZ regulations only apply to certain designated watercourses. Click here to see if a watercourse is designated as WASH or ERZ.

      In November 2006, Mayor and Council adopted the Interim Watercourse Preservation Policy and Development Standard. Development Standard 9-06 consolidates information on compliance with Chapter 26, WASH, and ERZ and is the most current guidance on watercourse protection. Properties on which there is a regulated watercourse may be required to complete a Watercourse Resources Report (WRR).

      The Interim Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines were developed as part of the Tucson Stormwater Management Study (TSMS) to "provide field guidance to maintenance workers to achieve consistent drainage maintenance City-wide." The Interim Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines provide general maintenance techniques for natural, altered from natural, and constructed watercourse classifications that reflect the extent of urbanization of the watercourse. These guidelines are currently under revision. The revised guidelines will address maintenance of both publicly and privately owned watercourses.

      Climate Change Response Ordinance (CCRO)
      The City is in the process of developing a consolidated environmental ordinance to replace the various existing habitat protection codes. This process is being supported by input from the Resource Preservation Advisory Committee (RPAC).


      Other Government Programs

      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.

      Pima County Sustainable Action Plan for County Operations (pdf)

      EPA GreenScapes Program
      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) GreenScapes program provides cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for landscaping. Designed to help preserve natural resources and prevent waste and pollution, GreenScapes encourages companies, government agencies, other entities, and homeowners to make more holistic decisions regarding waste generation and disposal and the associated impacts on land, water, air, and energy use.



      Tucson Clean and Beautiful
      Tucson Clean & Beautiful conducts environmental volunteer programs in waste reduction and recycling, land stewardship, urban forestry, and beautification.

      Buffelgrass Eradication
      Buffelgrass is an invasive, non-native grass that destroys our beautiful Sonoran desert environment. In the past two years, the invasion of buffelgrass has reached a critical stage. Learn how to identify and remove buffelgrass.

      Buffelgrass Informational Sheet