Sign on to Support the Santa Cruz River Urban National Wildlife Refuge 

We, the signatories of this letter, are in support of the creation of the Santa Cruz River Urban National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona.

Together, we represent thousands of Pima and Santa Cruz County residents who want to see the river corridor protected in perpetuity. The Santa Cruz River Refuge coalition recognizes that the Santa Cruz River has been a storied spiritual and cultural place for the Tohono O’odham and their distinct ancestors, and Pascua Yaqui people from time immemorial. We recognize that the people of the San Xavier District, in particular, have ancestral ties to the flowing Santa Cruz River and the lands around it. The original homeland of the O’odham and their ancestors, including the Hohokam and Early Agricultural People, is located on the river, which they collectively have stewarded for millennia. They continue to access these lands for ongoing cultural and religious practices.

The ecologically and culturally rich Santa Cruz River flows through the heart of Tucson, a fast-growing city of over 1 million people in the greater metropolitan area. After generations of colonization and groundwater overuse, the surface flow stopped running in some areas, with flows all but drying up except during heavy seasonal rains. In 2012, Pima County approved funding to vastly improve the quality of wastewater effluent that was being released into the Santa Cruz River. By upgrading the wastewater treatment facilities—which currently release highly treated wastewater into the Santa Cruz—local leaders, alongside restoration volunteers, created over 25 miles of vibrant habitat that has been foundational to the recovery of native vegetation, wildlife, insects, and migratory bird species.

The Santa Cruz corridor offers abundant recreation opportunities, including birdwatching at Sweetwater Wetlands and cycling and walking along the beloved 137-mile Chuck Huckelberry Loop, a popular paved recreation trail with dozens of access points that runs alongside the Santa Cruz and its major tributaries.

Our vision for an urban national wildlife refuge imagines an archipelago of protected properties along the Santa Cruz River that would offer permanent wildlife habitat and outdoor access. The Tucson land would anchor this “string of pearls,” offering shade, river access, and outdoor education for the neighboring communities. The Santa Cruz River Urban National Wildlife Refuge draws inspiration and lessons from current exemplary restoration work happening along the corridor, including the San Xavier District’s Wa:k Hikdan project.

We urge Secretary Deb Haaland to designate the country’s newest urban national wildlife refuge, the Santa Cruz River Urban National Wildlife Refuge, along the length of the Santa Cruz, south and north of the San Xavier District, in Santa Cruz and Pima Counties to preserve the river’s past, present and future.

Sign the Letter of Support
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