Local Voter Support
Realizing the Tumacacori Highland's importance biologically and recreationally, local citizens began looking for ways to preserve it. Congressionally-designated Wilderness, with its statutory and historically-vetted protections, especially as a tool to prevent fragmentation and destruction of the the land from new, often user-created and illegal, roads, emerged as the best way to assure preservation. Core areas of native biodiversity, and their vigorous protection, are essential to maintaining native biodiversity of a large scale.
A poll (conducted by Behavior Research Center) of likely voters in Marana, Oro Valley, east Tucson, Green Valley, Sahuarita, and eastern Pima County, showed "public support for the wilderness designation at 87 percent in favor, including 61 percent strongly in favor." Perhaps even more striking is the breadth of public support for Wilderness, the poll results showing "support transcends every geographic region, is bipartisan, cross cultural (including 95 perfect of Hispanics) and registers at 74 percent among off-road vehicle users." In addition, "when informed that only 6 percent of land in Arizona is permanently protected as wilderness, three-quarters of likely voters opine that this is 'too little'."
Support for Wilderness is also political common ground. Poll results show a strong majority of Republicans, a very strong majority of Democrats, and 86 percent of Independents support Wilderness.
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Local Scientists and Academics
Support Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness
Science Professionals and Researchers Cite Values of Preserving Wilderness in Southern Arizona
Read the letter
More than 80 professors and graduate students in fields such as wildlife and fisheries, natural resources management, and environmental science, have signed a letter to Arizona's Congressional delegation calling for federal legislation to designate the Tumacacori Highlands as a Wilderness Area.
The letter, sent last week, states: "we wish to add our voices and our names to that broad and committed coalition [supporting Wilderness]. We urge you to actively support Wilderness designation for Tumacacori Highlands and to work to pass the necessary legislation in this Congress."
Noting that the Tumacacori Highlands are one of the most biologically diverse areas in the United States and provides exceptional and intact habitat for 74 species listed for their rarity by federal and state governments, the scientists cite the threat of rapidly increasing urbanization of southern Arizona and call for leadership from Arizona's Senators and Congressmen.
"Human pressures on ecosystems have been easier to ignore in the past because the West was once full of open spaces, but as human population increases so does the need for and the threat to ecological services," says Sara Jensen, a natural resource scientist and one of the letter's advocates.
"Wilderness is a great tool to preserve intact habitat and natural areas in southern Arizona. These scientists know that and understand the importance of that," says Mike Quigley, of the local conservation organization Sky Island Alliance. "Wilderness makes good ecological sense."
Wilderness also makes good recreation and business sense, says Quigley. "If one is looking for a long quiet hike, or an authentic backcountry hunting experience, Wilderness provides that. Mt. Wrightson, the top of the Rincons, Pusch Ridge, the Superstitions outside Phoenix, Aravaipa Canyon - all top-notch backcountry experiences, and all Wilderness areas."
And the business sense part? "People are moving to places with wild, open spaces--and jobs are following people in the American West. Recent economics research shows preserving wildlands can be a key part of a solid economic development strategy," says Rebecca Carter, PhD, of the Sonoran Institute's Socioeconomics Program. "Other places can't create mountains and wildlands like we have here - that's a competitive quality-of-life advantage we're blessed to have. We should care for that."
The southern Arizona scientists recognize the importance of recreation and economics too - and the need for preservation and balance. "Population growth in southern Arizona continues to create a demand for low-impact recreation opportunities on public lands, and the need for permanently-protected wild areas. Recreation contributes significantly to local and state economies," the letter states, urging our Representatives and Senators to commit to "preserving the resources that support those activities by working for Wilderness designation."
But it can be more personal than economics, data and statistics. "Many of us do field research," says Jensen, "we're lucky to be out there, to see what we have in Arizona - how important it is scientifically, and how beautiful it is just to be in. We want to share that and preserve it."
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Demographics and the Economic Benefits
of Wilderness Protection
In Arizona, 75% of Hispanic-heritage voters support protecting more wilderness, according to a 2002 study by Bendixen & Associates. More than two-thirds strongly agreed that if we don't protect wilderness now, beautiful natural areas will disappear before our children and grandchildren have a chance to enjoy them. The survey results did not vary with political party affiliation. [Source: Bendixen & Associates poll, April/May 2002.]
In 2001, states that attracted the most new citizens Arizona among them were leaders in their percentage of accessible public land . [Source: Outdoor Industry Association, Human Powered Outdoor Recreation State of the Industry Report, 2002.] Wilderness designation for the Tumacacori Highlands will ensure that a major portion of Arizona's last untrammeled open space will remain untouched and available for public enjoyment.
In Arizona, 41.4% (1.6 million residents) take part in hiking annually. [Source: Outdoor Industry Foundation, Outdoor Recreation Participation and Spending Study, A State-by-State Perspective, 2002.] The Tumacacori Highlands offer an increasingly rare wilderness backcountry experience in Arizona and will help protect the spectacular wildlife habitat found throughout the Sky Island region.
A University of Arizona study done in the Upper San Pedro River Basin, to the east of Santa Cruz County, estimated that visitors spent $10 to $16 million in one year on associated travel and food in the Ramsey Canyon Preserve and San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. These rich bird habitats draw thousands of visitors per month. The new Tumacacori wilderness is likely to draw increased tourism revenue as well.
While Santa Cruz County's dependence on extractive resources has declined in recent decades, the Service industry workforce has more than doubled since 1980, indicating a sharp increase in tourism and accommodations. Many come to Santa Cruz County for its rich cultural and natural history. The Tumacacori Highlands offer a unique destination for the adventurous spirit.
Arizona residents that recreate in the outdoors pump $269 million into the state economy annually through purchases of outdoor equipment and merchandise. [Source: Outdoor Industry Foundation, Outdoor Recreation Participation and Spending Study, A State-by-State Perspective, 2002.] As visitor numbers increase to the new Tumacacori Highlands wilderness, local economies can expect a surge in revenue from outdoor gear demand and the services that draw visitors.
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