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Kyl Introduces Legislation to Add Land to Las Cienegas Conservation Area

Location: Washington, DC

Kyl Introduces Legislation to Add Land to Las Cienegas Conservation Area

U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) today introduced the Las Cienegas Enhancement Act of 2006, a bill that would add 2,400 acres of land to the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in southern Arizona.

The bill directs an exchange of a federal-owned 1,280 acre parcel of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) south of Tucson near Corona de Tucson for a privately-held, 2,392-acre parcel that lies to the north of the current conservation area's boundaries.

"The inclusion of this additional acreage in the conservation area means it will be protected from certain residential or commercial development in the future," said Kyl. "I'm glad the natural beauty and resources found in this area of the Sonoran Desert will be there for future generations because of this exchange."

The federally-owned land consists of low-lying Sonoran desert and has already been identified for disposal by the BLM through its land-use planning process.

Two other important objectives are accomplished with this exchange: addressing water withdrawals at Cienegas Creek and providing road access to a popular recreation destination, the Whetstone Mountains, controlled by the Forest Service.

Under the bill, existing water claims on the land that will be acquired are dramatically reduced, from 1,600 acre feet of water a year to 550. Pima County will administer and enforce this limitation. Kyl's bill recognizes that not only is it important to promote responsible use of our limited water supply, but the claims, if utilized as currently written, could have a detrimental impact on the conservation area.

"The agreed reduction of the water claims is a significant benefit to the area," said Kyl. "There are real concerns about the future of Cienegas Creek and the entire riparian area if there were to be water withdrawals at the higher level."

Although congressional authorization is not always necessary to complete exchanges involving federal land, it can be a more efficient, cost effective alternative to the administrative process. And Kyl notes that this exchange represents a consensus reached through the hard work of several concerned parties.

"This bill is the end product of negotiation," said Kyl. "State and local officials, conservationists, and other stakeholders have worked together to structure an exchange that is fair and in the public interest."

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is a cosponsor. A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in March by Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ).

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