While a proposed highway corridor through the Avra Valley of southern Arizona would not go through Saguaro National Park, it would nevertheless adversely impact the park, according to the Friends of Saguaro Board of Directors.
Without a single dissenting vote, the non-profit group's board recently approved a resolution expressing its opposition to the construction of a suggested "Interstate 11" corridor route through the Avra Valley. The resolution noted the suggested route would "negatively impact thousands of acres of public lands" and "sever critical wildlife movement corridors," as well as devastate the park's scenic viewsheds.
The board also noted that an interstate highway through the Avra Valley would increase air pollution in a national park that is afforded additional federal protections by The Wilderness Act of 1964.
Here's the resolution:
WHEREAS, Saguaro National Park was established in 1933 to protect the giant saguaro cactus, and preserve superb examples of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem, while affording unique recreational opportunities for visitors . . . and today, Saguaro National Park is the number one tourist destination in Southern Arizona, providing an economic impact of approximately $75 million per year to the Tucson community; and
WHEREAS, the Arizona Department of Transportation is considering an “Interstate 11 and Intermountain West Transportation Corridor” as a means of increasing regional economic development by linking trade with Mexico and Canada; and
WHEREAS, the Pima County Administrator has suggested that the proposed Interstate 11 should include a 56-mile section between Casa Grande and Green Valley that would run directly through the Avra Valley, adjacent to Saguaro National Park; and
WHEREAS, this suggested corridor would negatively impact thousands of acres of protected public lands, including Saguaro National Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Tucson Mountain Park, and the Central Arizona Project’s Tucson Mitigation Corridor; and
WHEREAS, this suggested corridor would cut through sensitive habitat recommended for protection by Pima County’s landmark Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan . . . sever critical wildlife movement corridors, and effectively block all animal migration from the Tucson Mountains to the west . . . disturb an unknown number of important archeological sites . . .impede washes and negatively impact surface water flows . . . and aggravate the spread of invasive plants; and
WHEREAS, this suggested corridor would degrade the visitor experience at Saguaro National Park by eliminating the natural quiet . . . destroying the scenic viewsheds . . . threatening the survival of native wildlife species . . . and polluting the air in a national park that is afforded additional federal protections by the Wilderness Act of 1964; and
WHEREAS, this suggested corridor would bi-sect the 2,514-acre Tucson Mitigation Corridor of the Bureau of Reclamation – nullifying the purpose for which it was preserved – and would be contrary to management guidelines that explicitly prohibit any development on these lands; and
WHEREAS, this suggested corridor would be contrary to Pima County’s long-established, consistent public policies to preserve open space, protect native wildlife habitat and movement corridors, and conserve the Sonoran Desert ecosystem; and
WHEREAS, this suggested corridor would be contrary to the purposes for which the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park was established in 1961 – to protect these lands “unimpeded” for future generations to enjoy; and
WHEREAS, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection (of which Friends of Saguaro is a member organization) has questioned the need for any new southern Arizona corridor between the Mexican border and Phoenix – preferring expansion or upgrades to existing transportation alignments;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors for Friends of Saguaro National Park Saguaro National Park expresses its firm opposition to the suggested Interstate 11 corridor through the Avra Valley, and calls upon the Arizona Department of Transportation to drop all further consideration of this route.
Approved by the Board of Directors January 9, 2014.
Traveler footnote: If you agree with this proposition, you can help Friends of Saguaro by donating to the organization.