Sonoita Valley, just 50 miles southeast of Tucson, is a vast, high desert basin of oak-studded hills, rolling grasslands, and the lush riparian corridor along Cienega Creek. It is an important wildlife corridor, connecting the Sonoran desert of the Southwest and northern Mexico. Half public and half private land ownership, it has traditionally supported ranching, grazing, and mining. Recently rediscovered as a recreational paradise, the valley is feeling the effects of Tucson’s booming growth.
In a land exchange, the USDI Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired desert lands close to the Mexican border and filed an Environmental Impact Statement to extend grazing leases. In the early 1990s that process became litigious. The BLM drew together a large group of stakeholders, including federal, state, and local agencies, organized groups, and individuals who eventually realized their common interests, forming the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership (SVPP) and expanding the planning area to include the watershed. The SVPP members share a common interest in the future of the Valley’s public lands.