5,040 Acres of Sands Ranch to be Preserved
It's the missing link between the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and the Whetstone Mountains and is the most significant grasslands habitat acquisition in Pima County’s history.
Pima County Supervisors yesterday voted to approve the purchase of 5,040 acres of the Sands Ranch located in Pima County. Funding for the $21-million acquisition will come from the sale of bonds approved by Pima County voters as part of the 2004 Conservation Acquisition Bond Program. This acquisition secures the missing link between the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and the Whetstone Mountains and is the most significant grasslands habitat acquisition in Pima County’s history.
Arizona Land and Water Trust has been working for months with the landowners, Sands Properties, L.L.C., to find a way to permanently protect the Ranch in Pima County.
“The acquisition of Sands Ranch adds 5,040 acres of conserved lands to the Conservation Lands System, providing a critical landscape connection for healthy ecological function and wildlife movement,” said Diana Freshwater, Executive Director of Arizona Land and Water Trust, which assisted Pima County with the acquisition.
According to Freshwater, the acquisition of the Pima County portion of the Sands Ranch will expand and connect already conserved lands along the critically important Cienega Creek: the Whetstone Mountains of the Coronado National Forest, the Empire Ranch and the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The County’s acquisition will also protect wildlife movement corridors between the Santa Rita Mountains and the Whetstone Mountains, and conserve a direct connection between significant riparian areas such as Sonoita Creek, Babocomari River and Cienega Creek, Freshwater said.
The Sands Ranch in its entirety stretches from just east of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in Pima County and Santa Cruz County, east into Cochise County to the San Pedro River. The Sands Family has owned the ranch since 1920. Through a ranch management agreement reached as part of the acquisition, Sands Properties, L.L.C. will continue to manage the Pima County portion of the ranch for 10 years with an option for another 10 years.
“Arizona Land and Water Trust is pleased to have been able to partner with Pima County to protect this historic working ranch and critical eco-system,” said Freshwater.
About Arizona Land and Water Trust
Arizona Land and Water Trust is a nonprofit land and water conservation organization dedicated to protecting southern Arizona’s vanishing western landscapes and wildlife habitat by acquiring and managing sensitive lands. In addition to its role as land steward, the Trust also engages in programs that support its mission, including appropriate legislation, public education, and outreach that encourages citizens to support protection of landscapes and ecosystems that are vital to the well being of all residents, present and future. Founded in 1978 as Arizona Open Land Trust, the organization merged earlier this year with Southeast Arizona Land Trust to continue their shared mission of protecting working landscapes, riparian corridors, wildlife habitat and the vast open spaces cherished by southern Arizonans. For more information contact the Trust at 520.577.8564 or visit us on the web at www.alwt.org.
Photo by Robert Dawson, courtesy of Arizona Land and Water Trust