Pima County, Ariz. – The Nature Conservancy is donating approximately 1,000 acres in Buehman Canyon, northeast of Tucson, to Pima County for conservation.
The donation is subject to approval of the Pima County Board of Supervisors and is on the agenda for the Sept. 6 meeting.
“The Conservancy is transferring Buehman Canyon to Pima County because it’s a key part of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan,” said Holly Richter, the director of conservation for the Conservancy in Arizona. The plan is the County’s effort to balance conservation of natural and cultural resources with growth through land acquisition, management, planning and regulation.
“We know the County will protect the valued habitat and wildlife,” Richter said.
East of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Buehman Canyon drains into the San Pedro River, which flows north from Mexico into the Gila River. Its forests of sycamores, cottonwoods and ash trees are home to black hawks, mountain lions, gray fox, and mule deer; and its creek supports lowland leopard frogs and native fish.
The donated land adds adjacent acreage to the 41,000-acre A-7 Ranch, most of which Pima County purchased from the city of Tucson in 2004, and comes very close to connecting it to the 12,000-acre Six Bar Ranch, bought by the county in 2006. (See maps.)
Adjacent to the Coronado National Forest, the ranches provide a corridor for wildlife movement between the Catalina, Rincon and Galiuro mountains.
The Buehman Canyon land was donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1996 by Riley West Inc., which owned and operated the 96,000-acre Bellota Ranch, of which the A-7 Ranch was part. At the time, William McGinnis, the president of Riley West, expressed concern about mining exploration in the area.
The Nature Conservancy purchased 72 adjoining acres, which it is asking the County to purchase for $40,000.
The Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department (NRPR) will manage the Buehman Canyon land as a natural resource park, as the A-7 and Six Bar ranches are. Information on the property will eventually be available on the NRPR website and County park rules will apply to all uses.
“This addition to the county land conservation system would be managed under a general stewardship model not unlike Cienega Creek Nature Preserve,” said Kerry Baldwin, the department’s natural resources superintendent. “We might establish the need to get a free permit from NRPR in the future to help control access to and across lands to reach the canyon and adjacent public lands like we do at Empirita Ranch.
“No formally developed recreational facilities are planned and the property is in a rugged area that is only accessible on roads that are best driven by high clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicles in good weather conditions, and are not maintained for public use.
“Visitors should be prepared for the semi-wilderness setting with poorly marked and unimproved roads and little chance of assistance if they break down, become lost or otherwise need assistance. Vehicle travel will be restricted to designated roads only and no off-road travel will be allowed.”