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Sopori Creek deal preserves S. Az borderland ranch as 'conservation linchpin'

Arizona Land and Water Trust has purchased more than 370 acres of land near Amado, Ariz., as part of a multi-million dollar campaign to protect a "conservation linchpin" between the Santa Cruz River and nearly 54,000 acres of landscape covered by Pima County's conservation plan. 

On Wednesday, the Tucson-based trust said that it successfully acquired 371 acres of land as part of an effort to protect the Sopori Creek and Farm located near Amado, about 35 miles southwest of Tucson, and south of Green Valley and west I-19. Centered around Sopori Creek, the land includes what the trust called "rare grandfathered water rights" as well as irrigated farmland, a "rich biotic community and a storied history." 

"Protecting Sopori Creek and Farm’s rich resources and history is a priority for Arizona Land and Water Trust – the only conservation organization in Southern Arizona with over 40 years' experience solely facilitating agreements with private landowners to advance protection of western landscapes and waters," said Liz Petterson, the executive director for group. "This initial purchase complements the trust’s ownership of 2,550 acres of the Sopori Ranch and will help create a larger conservation area eastward from Sopori Creek to the Santa Cruz River," she said.

The trust said that it had raised $2.6 million as part of a larger $8 million campaign to purchase 1,310 acres, which lies amid 20,000 acres of protected "priority conservation" lands protected as part of the larger Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The group also plans to develop an agricultural apprenticeship on site. 

The area around Sopori Creek, about 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, is a major habitat and wildlife corridor, and the purchase includes one mile of Sopori Creek itself, a major tributary of the Santa Cruz River that feeds into the Tucson basin, the group said. 

Among the animals that live on the property are birds, including the vulnerable Abert’s towhee, Bell’s vireo, Western yellow-billed cuckoo, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and mammals, including the lesser long-nosed bat.

In 2018, the trust established a plan to protect 2,500 acres around Sopori Ranch, expanding the protection of more than 6,500 acres after 4,100 acres were purchased in 2009 by Pima County. Overall, the trust has protected more than 50,000 acres over the last 40 years. 

Earlier this year, Arizona Land and Water Trust secured about 1,150 acres of the Rose Tree Ranch, about 40 miles east of the Sopori project, in Santa Cruz County near Elgin, in an effort to protect the upper San Pedro River watershed. Researchers think that endangered ocelot and jaguar might travel through the ranch, the Nogales International reported

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In 2001, Pima County established the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan in an attempt to balance what the county calls the "conservation and protection of our cultural and natural resource heritage with our efforts to maintain an economically vigorous and fiscally responsible community." 

The plan has won several awards over the years, and includes planning for critical habitats and wildlife corridors, riparian areas, mountain parks, historical and cultural preservation, and ranch conservation. Along with the Sopori Creek area, the county's conservation plan includes wildlife crossings over Highway 77 near Oracle Road, land on the western slope of Tumamoc Hill, and more than 40,000 acres that were part of the A-7 Ranch. The plan, backed by a voter-approved $164.3 million bond, has purchased more than 50,000 acres from working ranches, the county said

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Arizona Land and Water Trust

Land near Sopori Creek and Farm

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