Saguaro National Park officials and Tucson environmentalists are praising a recent land exchange that adds 632 acres of prime wildlife habitat to the park's holdings. They say the expansion helps to protect the cactus forest from urban sprawl, but others are wondering if too much was sacrificed in the process.
The Tucson Mountains acreage, owned by
local developer Don Diamond, was acquired by the park in early
April. In exchange, Diamond gained 4,332 acres of Bureau of Land
Management land northwest of Phoenix, property he plans to sell to
Critics say the Phoenix land
was undervalued and maintain that the Tucson acreage should have
been purchased outright with money from the $12 billion federal
Land and Water Conservation Fund, now used primarily to retire the
"I know a lot of folks in Tucson
are probably happy the exchange has been finalized, but from a
larger perspective there is nothing to celebrate," says Don Steuter
of the Sierra Club's Phoenix charter.
Wilson, a former Tucson resident and longtime supporter of the park
expansion, agrees the victory is bittersweet. "I don't blame the
Phoenix people at all for opposing it," she says. "I sympathize
with them, and I wish we could have fought it instead, but the
bottom line is that I wanted to protect that land."