Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ Wildlife Matters


Despite being involved in Oro Valley development issues for the past 15 years, reading Dr. Amy Eisenberg’s recent Guest View on LOVE about the devastation on the Kai-Silverhawke property was an eye-opener even for me. (Read it HERE)

The Town needs to implement a Wildlife Conservation Ordinance
After reading her Guest View and witnessing what Meritage Homes was allowed to do on the Silverhawke property -- completely leveling the land and all those beautiful rolling hills (wildlife habitat) -- it appears that the Town does not have any protocols in place for protecting wildlife. Therefore, we can expect the same devastation to occur on the remaining Kai property at First and Tangerine if and when it is ever developed.

Since tortoises are very slow moving and cannot outrun a bulldozer, I can surmise from reading Dr. Eisenberg's article that some of them were crushed to death or buried alive during the mass grading of Silverhawke. And apparently the Town does not care because they are not federally protected. Until recently, I had no idea that there were tortoises living on that parcel.

Our Town Council has an opportunity, from this point forward, to establish a preconstruction protocol to analyze, protect, and perhaps relocate indigenous species living in the construction area. In light of what these animals could face, this is the humane, compassionate, and civilized thing to do. What the Town is currently allowing is just plain cruel.

The Town should require a “Wildlife Assessment and Plan” to be submitted with every development proposal and rezoning.

A wildlife biologist should be consulted
If the Town can arrange to have all the saguaro cactus counted on a property and make arrangements for them to either be protected in place or carefully relocated, they can certainly do the same for wildlife...and not just the ones on the Endangered Species List. How do you think they became endangered in the first place? It was due to the thoughtless, selfish, greedy, and reckless behavior of man.

Rather than destroying wildlife habitats and killing the wildlife, then waiting for their numbers to decline so much that they are eventually placed on the Endangered Species list, and then we must wait years (if not decades) for their numbers to increase again, why not be proactive and have protocols that prevent this from happening in the first place? 
Demolished tortoise habitat (Photo from Dr. Eisenberg's Guest View)

Oro Valley - It's in our nature!

Is it? Or is that just a slogan?

The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan
I’ve wrongly assumed all these years that Oro Valley’s wildlife was being catalogued and protected due to The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan that has been in effect since 1998. According to their website, below is one of the components in the plan:
• Working with local jurisdictions such as the City of Tucson, Town of Marana, Town of Oro Valley, and Town of Sahuarita on regional habitat conservation planning and the development of their conservation policies and ordinances. We also continually monitor how these policies and ordinances are applied to specific development projects.

This did not appear to happen on the Silverhawke property. Is the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan just a guide without any actual requirements and enforcement?

A plea to our Mayor and Council
Impacts to wildlife habitat must be considered in all future General Plan amendments and rezonings. I call on our Town Council and Town Staff to immediately begin implementation of a wildlife conservation plan. And not just a guide that can be overlooked or modified when convenient, but an actual Town Code to prevent this travesty from ever happening again. We must stop allowing wildlife to be killed simply because developers deem them to be in the way and disposable. On the contrary, it’s us humans who are in their way!

And do it now because we are not likely to have a more environmentally friendly council than this to do it.
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Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006. In 2014, she organized a citizens group, who over a 9-month period, successfully negotiated a controversial 200-acre development project. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.