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Nov. 1, 2013

Town Officials Remove Endangered Species Protection from 2,400-Acre Area

By Balazs Szekely, Associate Editor

Marana residents fear that Tortolita Preserve may be facing a whole series of new developments in the future as town officials intend to withdraw from a 99-year lease agreement early and return the area back to the state.

The goal of creating the preserve 13 years ago was to reduce Dove Mountain’s development, thus protecting the habitat of the Pygmy Owl. The species was on the endangered species list at that time.

Since the birds have reproduced to a more comforting level and as a consequence have been taken off the endangered species list in the meantime, the agreement with the state and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service might now be suspended, upsetting locals living near the preserve. The pleasant surroundings that the Tortolita Preserve provided for nearby homes constituted a major attraction in the eyes of present inhabitants, according to a News 4 Tucson report. The other concern they have is depreciation of their properties.

The Town of Marana originally agreed to lease 2,400 acres of land in order to protect the tiny predators. Now that the species no longer counts as endangered, officials caution that the land generates significant expenses for taxpayers. Around $121 million would have to be paid over the extent of the contract, so the town has to consider every option. Over time, the lease will inevitably become a burden regarding the general fund, Marana spokesman Rodney Camplbell declared. What might give concerned residents some momentary relief is that the state land department still has to affirm that revising the contract is even possible.

Illustration courtesy of John Owens via Wikimedia Commons

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