Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations, introduced the Saguaro National Park Boundary Expansion and Study Act of 2013 yesterday afternoon. Reps. Ron Barber and Ann Kirkpatrick are original cosponsors.
This year's version of the bill, which has been introduced in previous Congresses, seeks to expand the boundaries of the park to includes 2,525 acres identified by the Park Superintendent for their resource values and ecological characteristics. New additions will enhance current ecological protections and create a permanent wildlife corridor to the Santa Cruz River from Saguaro National Park through the Sweetwater Preserve. Expanding the boundaries of the park based on resource value and the identification of willing landowners prevents incongruous development and contributes to the lasting integrity of the Park.
"Saguaro National Park is one of the things that makes Tucson and Southern Arizona such a special to live," Grijalva said. "Not many major cities are lucky enough to be surrounded by a National Park, and we have to do what we can prevent encroachment. Land with critical resource values and important historical and cultural resources should be part of the park."
"Arizona's environmental treasures are also economic drivers," Kirkpatrick said. "Saguaro National Park is one of Southern Arizona's great destinations of southwestern beauty, and it draws more than 600,000 recreation visitors a year. Conservation efforts that help our national parks help all of us."
"Saguaro National Park is a jewel of Tucson and Southern Arizona. I am a strong supporter of this expansion and urge my colleagues in the House to support this bill and quickly move it through the legislative process," Barber said. "I am especially pleased that the bill has such a wide breadth of support from the private property owners in the surrounding areas. Our open spaces in southern Arizona are important to preserve for both the enjoyment of future generations and the future of our tourism industry and economy."
Saguaro National Park is a treasured open space that bookends the Tucson metropolitan area, creating a natural buffer between the city and the surrounding desert landscape. Providing a glimpse at a unique ecosystem and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation, the Park is enjoyed all year by local residents and visitors from all over the world. It is an important conservation effort that contributes to the protection of wildlife, ecological, historical, and cultural resources.
All owners of private lands included in the proposal support introduction of the legislation and have acknowledged their willingness to work with the National Park Service to incorporate their parcels into the Park. Once passed, NPS would gain the authority to acquire private parcels by donation, trade, or purchase. Most NPS acquisitions are financed through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program established in 1964 that collect fees from offshore drilling in order fund land acquisition and conservation. The bill does not cost any federal money
The legislation is supported by many members of the local community and is accompanied by letters of support from Mayor of Tucson Jonathan Rothschild, Pima County Supervisors Ray Carroll and Sharon Bronson, the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Tucson Mountains Association, Friends of Saguaro National Park, and several other local conservation groups.