-At least it's not Phoenix," mutter some Tucson residents when asked about the city's runaway growth.
But as Tucson continues to sprawl into
the surrounding Sonoran desert, many think it's beginning to look a
lot like its larger neighbor. Dismay over that relentless push
helps to explain why, in late May, Pima County unanimously approved
the creation of a long-range plan to protect the Sonoran
"This is as big as it gets," says Carolyn
Campbell, director of a coalition of 31 environmental groups
supporting the ambitious plan. It would set aside biologically rich
private and public lands within a network of riparian and wildlife
corridors among the area's five mountain
County supervisors voted against a
competing proposal, a federally funded Habitat Conservation Plan
that would have allowed development of some endangered species
habitat in exchange for protection of other areas. Under the
coalition's Sonoran Desert Protection Plan, money for the
protection of open space is expected to come from impact fees on
new homes, sales taxes or user fees.
Dan Eckstrom cautioned that the plan may not guarantee protection
for endangered species. "It would be wrong for me to second-guess
what will happen once the plan and the process open up," he says.
The county will hire a biological consultant to write the plan over
the next year.
But environmentalists are
jubilant. David Hogan, a staff member of the Southwest Center for
Biological Diversity and a leader of the coalition, says, "The
supervisors rejected the political agenda of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service - the Bruce Babbitt agenda of only protecting
endangered species with the approval of developers."