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1. What is a Wildlife Corridor?
2. The Story of the Sonoita Creek Wildlife Corridor
3. Obstacles to the Protection of Wildlife Corridors
4. Solutions: Managing for People and Wildlife – The Mission of Wildlife Corridors
5. Funding the Future
What is a Wildlife Corridor?
Biologists have long recognized the importance of connections between the biological diversity of the Sky Islands and that of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. Many separate scientific analyses of the region have come to the same conclusion: the biological diversity of the individual mountain ranges is in peril if the migratory linkages among them are jeopardized. A wildlife corridor acts in two ways to benefit wildlife; as habitat, and as a passage between areas of developed land.
The Story of the SCWC
In Early 2015, the founder and director of Borderlands Restoration were presented with a unique opportunity; over 1,000 acres of nearly pristine grassland, oak woodland, and remnant cienega were placed up for sale by the bank after they had foreclosed on a developer. The skeleton of the planned development, Three Canyons, was already in place – a system of roads on the lower 1/3 of the property, leading to a few houses on purchased lots, and a water system that would provide plumbing for the 150+ platted lots. While the properties boasted significant space set aside for conservation (green), this old conservation easement provides no corridor for animal movement, amongst a polka-dotted landscape speckled with houses (gray with black squares).
In 2004, Arizona Game and Fish Department funded a team of conservation biologists from Northern Arizona University (NAU) to identify critical linkages important for wildlife migration. The Sonoita Creek Wildlife Corridor was ranked as an important linkage for black bear and mountain lion, and was the most highly ranked linkage for jaguar moving between Mexico and the Huachuca and Santa Rita Mountain ranges outside Patagonia, AZ.
Obstacles to the Protection of Wildlife Corridors
Given that the most important linkages have been identified, why has so little been done to secure wildlife corridors in this region? There are at least three major reasons for the lack of progress:
- Opportunity – The spread of housing developments on former ranches often happens before funding or public awareness can be developed;
- Economic and Cultural Issues – Most of the efforts to protect land in the region have focused on the biological issues and have not paid significant attention to the economic and cultural issues that impede conservation;
- Funding – Lack of major coordinated funding effort by foundation and agencies at the scale necessary to address the needs of the region has resulted in too little funding, too late.
Solutions: Managing Habitat for People and Wildlife – The Mission of Wildlife Corridors
Wildlife Corridors seeks to facilitate novel public-private partnerships to protect open land, improve habitat and facilitate wildlife movement. We actually seek out and incorporate local perspectives on how people can recreate, live upon and manage land, in perpetuity and for the benefit of people, plants, wildlife, and waterways.
We address the above obstacles in the following ways:
- Opportunity: The presence of a defunct housing development precisely in the path of the corridor identified by the NAU study afford us the perfect opportunity to keep the Sonoita Creek Wildlife Corridor open.
- Economic and Cultural Issues: Like Borderlands Restoration, Wildlife Corridors works to foster a Restoration Economy
- Funding: In order to purchase the land, WC borrowed $700,000 at 6% annual interest rate and a large balloon payment after just 3 years. WC is now seeking to pay off the mortgage through a combination of selling development rights in the corridor, and selling a limited number of residential lots on the southern portion of the property. These lots are in an area that has paved roads, power, and where 16 lots were previously sold before the acquisition. WC is also seeking funding from private foundations and government grants for land protection and restoration.
We Need Your Help! Funding the Future
One of our highest priorities is to pay off our current high interest loan, in favor of a low interest loan that will free up funds for increased restoration and management activities. We are also seeking contributions to help us retire additional development rights so that more land can be protected in perpetuity. The members of Wildlife Corridors, LLC have pledged 80% of any profit from the sale of residential lots to be used to build a Corridor Restoration and Expansion Fund that will ensure the protection and restoration of this and other critically threatened corridors in Arizona and Sonora.
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Read more about the strategy to protect the biological diversity of the Sky Island Region.
- Patagonia Regional Times Articles:
- Sky Island Restoration Cooperative Brief: Sonoita Creek Corridor
- Other News:
Comments from Community Members:
“I’ve been a longtime frequent visitor to the property. It is my greatest pleasure to look at natural processes out there.” – Susan Englebry, Patagonia resident.
“This is a great opportunity for multi-use recreation.”– Zay Hartigan, San Rafael Valley resident and Arizona Trail Segment Steward.
“This is such an amazing project. Congratulations.” –Meg Linton, Patagonia resident.
“The emphasis of environment justice, community involvement, and the development of a restoration economy is greatly appreciated.” –Cassalyn David, Patagonia resident
Wildlife Corridors, LLC * PO Box 1181 * Patagonia, AZ 85624 * email@example.com