Press Release: $30,000 Outdoor Business Grant to Support Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness Effort
Flagstaff-based Babbitt's Backcountry Outfitters Sponsors Proposal
PHOENIX—Arizona wilderness advocates are better positioned to accomplish their goals, thanks to a timely $30,000 grant from the Conservation Alliance that will support work on southern Arizona’s Tumacacori Highlands wilderness proposal. Out of 29 submissions, the Arizona Wilderness Coalition proposal for the Highlands was chosen by the Conservation Alliance for its strong likelihood of success and the localized grassroots approach conservation groups are taking to ensure the Highlands are designated as federal wilderness by Congress.
“The Conservation Alliance is committed to helping organizations like the Arizona Wilderness Coalition protect our last wild places,” said Alliance Executive Director John Sterling. “The Tumacacori Highlands is one of those last, truly untouched corners of our country, and our members saw the tremendous potential to preserve those rugged mountains and canyons just as they are.”
The Conservation Alliance is a non-profit organization of outdoor businesses whose collective annual membership dues support grassroots citizen-action groups and their efforts to protect wild and natural areas. One hundred percent of its member companies' dues go directly to diverse, local community groups across the nation.
Conservation groups unveiled the Tumacacori Highlands wilderness proposal in January 2004 to preserve the area’s outstanding biodiversity and remote beauty in the face of a rapidly developing southern Arizona. Situated on the Coronado National Forest, about 50 miles southeast of Tucson, the Highlands region is the largest remaining roadless area left on Forest Service lands in Arizona. The proposal would protect approximately 85,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat for species such as the elegant trogon, Mexican vine snake, and jaguar, and preserve traditional recreation such as hunting, camping, hiking, birdwatching, and horsepacking.
“As someone who makes a living from people who enjoy Arizona's remarkable wild lands, I feel very fortunate to be able to contribute directly to an organization like the Conservation Alliance,” says Jim Babbitt, owner of Babbitt's Backcountry Outfitters in Flagstaff, who sponsored the Arizona Wilderness Coalition's grant proposal to the Alliance. “Arizona is the second fastest growing state in the nation. Unless we save some of the wild lands we have left, our grandchildren won't have places to hike, camp, fish, hunt and otherwise enjoy the Arizona outdoors.”
Federal wilderness designation is the highest level of protection available for public lands and is made possible by the 1964 Wilderness Act. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-District 7) supports the proposal and will eventually sponsor a bill on the House side. Arizona citizens are looking for a champion in either John McCain (R) or Jon Kyl (R) to carry the bill through the Senate with bi-partisan support.
“Arizona has a rich conservation legacy of preserving wild lands by advocates like Congressman Mo Udall and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt,” says Don Hoffman, executive director of the statewide Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “The Tumacacori Highlands are such a remarkable window to the past and show how a wild ecosystem truly functions. We are deeply appreciative of the Conservation Alliance and its members for recognizing that value and enabling us to work on protecting it for all to enjoy.”
The Arizona Wilderness Coalition will use the funding to work cooperatively on media work, outreach, and organizing for the Tumacacori Highlands proposal with local conservation groups in Tucson, such as the Sky Island Alliance, and the citizen group, Friends of the Tumacacori Highlands.
For more information on the Conservation Alliance, visit www.conservationalliance.com.
To find out more about the Tumacacori Highlands proposed wilderness, go to www.tumacacoriwild.org.