Saguaro National Park East Adds 44 Acres to Preserve

Saguaro National Park Photo

TUCSON, Arizona — The Trust for Public Land transferred 44 acres to Saguaro National Park (East district) located north of Vail. The new acreage adds a critical water resource to Saguaro National Park (SNP) east.

The land was purchased by the Trust for Public Land (LWCF) from Scott and Kate Lewis of Tucson for $450,000 ($10,225 per acre). The Trust then transferred the land to the National Park Service using monies appropriated from Congress for the park via the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

“As native Tucsonans growing up on the east side, we are thrilled that our mesquite bosque land with Rincon Creek will be preserved in perpetuity as part of Saguaro National Park,” said Scott and Kate Lewis. “The Trust for Public Land has a great team of professionals doing their land conservation work in Arizona, and we really enjoyed our partnership with them in protecting our property.”

The LWCF  is funded by a small fraction of revenues generated by offshore oil and gas royalty payments; it is not supported with general taxpayer dollars. In 2016 the federal budge included some $1.35 million in funds from the LWCF, for land purchases at Saguaro National Park.  According to the release “this would allow the purchase from willing sellers of private lands that are located within the authorized park boundaries, particularly focused on undeveloped properties along Rincon Creek.”

“It is always exciting to protect land in our National Parks, and Saguaro National Park is such a treasure for the people of Tucson and for visitors from across the nation,” said Michael Patrick, Arizona Program Manager at the Trust for Public Land, in the release. “The sellers of conservation lands are so important to the success of our mission, and Scott and Kate Lewis were passionate about having their property and Rincon Creek added to the park for future generations.”

Included in the newly purchased land is a stretch of Rincon Creek that has cottonwood, willow, mesquite Bosque and a large area of sacaton grass. The protection of this land is important not only for the riparian habitat, but the fact that it will also protect habitat for the desert tortoise, large carnivores, mule deer, Gila monsters, and other species that are unique to the Sonoran Desert.

This new 44 acres is adjacent to another 44-acre property that was donated to SNP in 2016 by philanthropist Roxanne Quimby, the co-founder of Burt’s Bees. The Quimby donation also includes a portion of Rincon Creek and another prominent feature in the area, Sentinel Butte.

Also in 2016, The Trust for Public Land donated an additional 300 acres and 1-1/2 miles of Rincon Creek to the park, via a generous donation from philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss. That donated land is about a mile downstream of this new addition.  In 1993, the Trust for Public Land purchased an adjacent 1,100 acres of land for the park and is an addition that now includes more than a mile of the Arizona Trail.

“The National Park Service is thankful for the partnership with the Trust for Public Land and Scott and Kate Lewis for making this possible. The rich riparian corridor along Rincon Creek is critically important for the wildlife of the park, and this acquisition will help us to ensure its protection,” said Leah McGinnis, Superintendent of the Saguaro National Park in the release.

“Saguaro National Park is a unique getaway for Tucsonans, Southern Arizonans, and visitors from around the world and is one of our State’s natural wonders.” said U.S. Representative Martha McSally, R-Ariz.  “I am pleased to see the park receive these funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which I have supported during my time in Congress.”