Marana is moving closer to creating a comprehensive wildlife plan to protect more than a dozen species found within the town limits.
The habitat conservation plan is being drafted so that as Marana develops and grows, areas of open space, wildlife corridors and conservation zones can be identified.
“It gives us the certainty that if any of the 13 species that we are going to list, then we’re covered and our capital improvement project still be able to move forward as well,” said Jennifer Christelman, director of the town’s environmental engineering division.
The plan has been in the works for several years and should be ready to roll out for public input in a few months.
“We started doing the habitat conservation plan in 2001,” Christelman said. “It originally started with the listing of the pygmy owl.”
When the pygmy owl was delisted in 2006 as an endangered species, work on the plan slowed down. Attention shifted back to conservation efforts in January 2007 when talk surfaced of the owl being relisted.
In December, the plan should be open for public input, with a final version tentatively scheduled for approval in May 2009.
Thirteen species have been selected for protection so far, including the pygmy-owl, the desert tortoise and the lesser long-nosed bat.
Among the things identified by the plan are a series of wildlife corridors that will run mainly south to northeast towards the Tortolita Mountains.
Previously, it was up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act as de facto planners for the town, making sure any projects were endangered species-friendly.
When the plan is approved, it will go before Fish and Wildlife for final approval.
The town is collaborating with various groups on the project.
“Basically we are looking for the preservation of a significant amount of natural open space, that is to say wildlife habitat, configured in such a way that it provides linkages throughout the area,” said Paul Green, of the Audubon Society, which is working on the project.
Representatives from the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association are also involved.
“They reached out to SAHBA to help them get input from the development community, just to make sure there’s a broad-based approach as they develop their plan,” said SAHBA Government Liaison David Godlewski.