Tom Collazo – TNC


Thank you Monica, and members of the Working Group and folks from SunZia for today and the opportunity to talk.  Actually, I think I can keep this fairly brief.  It’s actually quite gratifying to hear many of the points that we would have made, made for us by our friends who. We really appreciate that.


So I just want to cover a couple of points and again I think many of these have already been made by David and Chet and the other speakers but The Conservancy has had a long standing interest in the conservation of the San Pedro Valley.  We’ve been working here directly for over 30 years with a number of preserves and staff really working from Mexico and the headwaters of the River all the way down to the confluence of the Gila River,  a number of preserves on major tributaries in Aravaipa Canyon and Muleshoe, as well along the main stem of the River.  We don’t work in isolation. Our work is done only through cooperative partnerships with a wide variety of federal, state, county agencies, other non-governmental organizations, but most importantly, a lot of private landowners, many of whom are here in the audience tonight.   None of this work would be able to be done single handedly. 


One point that hasn’t been made by other speakers is that one way that a lot of the conservation in the Valley here has been accomplished has been through directing mitigation for other projects that have been in the State to the San Pedro Valley. 


A couple of the major conservation investors in the Valley are the Bureau of Reclamation and Salt River Project.  And their investments here have been made because of environmental impacts that were sustained in other places, most notably at Roosevelt Lake when we the dam was raised a few years ago and the lake level was going to be increased…they did their own habitat conservation plan with the Fish and Wildlife Service, and they needed to mitigate for effects of southwestern willow flycatcher.  They were in a situation where they couldn’t avoid those impacts there.  So looking for places to mitigate, the San Pedro being the logical place.


Why is it that important?  Because if new projects come into this area  and they start to affect those mitigations it jeopardizes their ability to be able to maintain their operations.  Also, we’re running out of this quality of habitat, so to try to mitigate for impacts here, there’s really very few places left to go.


And then I guess the last point I’ll probably make is that we have a unique opportunity.  Some of the speakers talked about how just over the hill there’s a city of a million people and, in fact, I think you’ve seen all of the statistics---certainly on the species here.  Here’s some of the different diverse habitats: the wooded swamp of Bingham Cienega there, and then the old growth mesquite bosque of the 7B Ranch – it’s a project that Resolution Copper is doing as part of the land exchange, again, because they would like to be able to mine major ore body up in Superior.   In order to gain control over that land, they’re looking to trade the federal government for other conservation lands and they’re focusing it here, so their ability to be able to provide jobs and develop an ore body is, again, dependent on the ability to maintain the integrity of this system here.


Another area that was ____  of the focus here tonight is the Cascabel area.  We do look at the entire River as a system.  And some of the other routes that are being proposed that run a bit further North of here…Aravaipa Canyon is a significant wilderness area, probably the most important native fish community in the Southwest.  There are so few places for native fish to be recovered anymore that more species are being introduced into Aravaipa.  So anything that’s going to affect its watershed is a significant concern to us.


The point  This just shows some of the different regional assessments that have been been done that document the high value of this.  This is the Conservancy’s ecoregional map of the Southwest.  The lower San Pedro Valley is in the top 5% of areas here.  And here’s the Wildlife Linkages Project that Game and Fish and ADOT did.  And again, the lower San Pedro Valley, particularly this area here in Cascabel, is extremely important. 


The point I wanted to make about…    Here’s conservation land and..  the point that I wanted to make about the Sun Corridor and the million people on the other side of the Valley is that we….  This slide focuses on water and of course a lot of our interest here is on water, but the other point is that this is all this energy is coming to support the projected future population growth of the Sun Corridor: basically the area from Prescott down to the Mexican border.  That We have to make some choices as to what parts of the Sun Valley we are going to set aside for conservation and where we’re going to choose to have growth occur. And our opportunities to protect outstanding natural values plus wildlife as well as recreation and culture, our best opportunity here is in the San Pedro Valley.


That’s why the choices we make on all kinds of infrastructure projects…  A year or two ago we were addressing the I-10 bypass project and again growth follows infrastructure and so this is another reason why we share the community’s concern about this area.


Infrastructure projects are, I think this a good point to be made as well, should follow a hierarchy of avoid, minimize, and mitigate.  And I think we’re still at the point where there are very strong arguments that say that San Pedro Valley is definitely in a critical area.


Thanks very much.