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Kyl Bill Adds Land to the Las Cienegas Conservation Area & Saguaro National Park

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Kyl Bill Adds Land to the Las Cienegas Conservation Area & Saguaro National Park

U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) today introduced the Las Cienegas Enhancement and Saguaro National Park Boundary Adjustment Act of 2007. The legislation adds nearly 2,400 acres to the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and 160 acres to the Saguaro National Park, both located in southern Arizona.

"Including this land in the conservation area and park ensures that it will be protected from development, preserving the natural beauty of these areas for future generations to enjoy," said Kyl.

The bill directs an exchange of a federally owned 1,280-acre parcel of land located south of Tucson near Corona de Tucson for two other land parcels. The outgoing parcel, referred to as the "Sahuarita property," is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and consists of low-lying desert that has already been identified for disposal by the BLM through its land-use planning process.

The first parcel to be acquired consists of approximately 2,392 acres of land referred to as the "Empirita-Simonson property." This property lies north of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, managed by the BLM. The Empirita-Simonson property is located within the "Sonoita Valley Acquisition Planning District" established by Public Law 106-538, which designated the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The law directs the Department of the Interior to acquire lands from willing sellers within the planning district for inclusion within the conservation area. Its intent is to further protect lands with important resource values for which the national conservation area was designated.

The second parcel to be acquired, known as the Bloom Property, is approximately 160 acres located just south of the Sweetwater Trail in Saguaro Park West. It was identified for inclusion in the Saguaro National Park during a boundary study conducted by the National Park Service in 1993. In 1994, using the data from the study, Congress enacted legislation expanding the park and changed Saguaro's designation from monument to park. However, at that time, the Bloom Property did not have a willing seller, as it does now.

"The Bloom Property is a prime example of Sonoran Desert important to maintaining corridors for wildlife, like the mountain lion," said Kyl.

The Kyl bill accomplishes two other important objectives: addressing water withdrawals at Cienega Creek and providing road access to a popular recreation destination, the Whetstone Mountains, controlled by the Forest Service.

The land exchange is conditioned on Las Cienegas Conservation, LLC conveying a 98-acre well site to Pima County and relinquishing the water rights it controls. The net result is a water savings of 1,050 acre-feet per year. Concern exists about the future of Cienega Creek and the entire riparian area if these water withdrawals occur.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) is a cosponsor of the Kyl legislation. A previously introduced version received broad support from conservationists and officials in the state.

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