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Feb 25, 2013 12:02 PM by Faye DeHoff

Still time for your input on Pima County conservation plan

TUCSON - What would happen if the Sonoran desert tortoise is listed as an endangered species in the future?

Pima County is working toward a plan that would stave off the uncertainty that erupted in the 1990s over the listing of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. Through more than a decade of collaboration with stakeholders from both the conservation and business communities, Pima County is seeking approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a conservation plan that balances growth and development with protection of native plant and animal species, as well as their habitats.

Although it is illegal to harm, kill or harass threatened and endangered wildlife, Pima County is applying for a permit that would allow it to move forward with otherwise lawful activities, such as construction of roads or facilities, even if it results in incidental "take" of a listed species. Private property owners could be protected under the County's permit.

The Multi-Species Conservation Plan would cover 44 species, including 7 currently
listed. In some ways, the permit has been likened to an insurance policy, providing
coverage for 30 years of development and creating regulatory certainty in the event new species receive future protection or new critical habitat designations occur. The plan also allows for ongoing monitoring and evaluation to determine whether the
permit is working to benefit the species. And instead of managing habitat through a
species-by-species approach, the focus of the plan is to take a broader look at
protecting entire ecosystem features, including land cover and water.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, which will decide whether to approve the permit, is
accepting public comment on the plan until March 15 at:
PimaMSCP@fws.gov.

Pima County held five public meetings - one in each supervisorial district - to solicit
comment, and the Fish and Wildlife Service held a sixth meeting Thursday night. The
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection will host an additional open house on
Wednesday, Feb. 27 from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. at the City of Tucson Ward 3 council office,
1510 E. Grant Road.

Both the draft Multi-Species Conservation Plan and the draft Environmental Impact
Statement can be viewed at:
http://www.pima.gov/cmo/sdcp/MSCP/MSCP.html.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please email the Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation at MSCP@pima.gov or call (520) 740-6440.

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