Pima County’s commitment to environmental protection has earned the appreciation of a conservation group dedicated to preventing the decline of the migratory songbird population in North America.
Saving Birds Thru Habitat presented the Board of Supervisors at a March meeting with its Award of Exceptional Merit for maintaining a thriving bird population in the metro Tucson area. The group cited the County’s ongoing effort to preserve large swaths of native vegetation under the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP), the County’s plan for balancing the conservation and protection of cultural and natural resource heritage with efforts to maintain an economically vigorous and fiscally responsible community. The Michigan-based organization calls the SDCP “nothing short of remarkable.”
Saving Birds Thru Habitat cited the Plan’s emphasis on protecting and rescuing native plants and fighting the spread of invasive plant species, such as buffelgrass, as a major criterion for selecting Pima County for the award. Research shows that only native plants support a sufficient abundance of insects required to maintain healthy bird populations in a given area. Ninety-seven percent of land bird species require insects during at least some portion of their lives, and most songbirds (and all hummingbirds) depend heavily on insects throughout their lives. What’s more, nearly all types of birds must have insects to feed their young.
“As a longtime winter visitor to Pima County, and as a serious bird conservationist, I can attest to the fact that the efforts made here because of your SDCP have had a significant positive impact on bird populations in and around Tucson,” said Kay Charter, Executive Director of Saving Birds Thru Habitat. “I have traveled widely around the country and know of no other densely populated urban area that can boast of as many birds as this one.”
Saving Birds Thru Habitat has previously recognized industrial, commercial, agricultural operations and private property owners across the country with the award, Pima County is the first county in the United States to earn the distinction.
“As Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan includes protecting and rescuing native plants, it is precisely the kind of thing we would like to see all counties (and other governments) put into practice,” said Charter.
She added that the SDCP has significantly mitigated the loss of the bird species that inevitably occurs in the urban development process, especially compared to other desert cities such as Phoenix, Albuquerque or El Paso.
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