Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Tucson Sky Islands COA

This COA contains the majority of the Tucson-area sky islands as well as many Important Bird Areas (IBAs) found in upland Sonoran desertscrub. This COA also covers portions of the Santa Catalina and Rincon mountains, and the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park. Owing in part to the extensive elevational range, this COA contains a variety of habitat types, ranging from semidesert grassland and Sonoran desertscrub to Madrean woodland and Petran montane conifer forest. In addition to its vertebrate diversity, this area contains native land snails of the genus Sonorella and Naesiotus, and possibly undiscovered Pyrgulopsis springsnail populations. Nearly all of the land within this COA is public, which, coupled with its proximity to Tucson, makes it important for ecotourism and outdoor recreation, especially hiking, birding, climbing, and mountain biking.

Conservation Goals

  • Reintroduce fire regimes, where possible, to increase landscape resiliency.
  • Control invasive plant species at manageable levels that promote healthy, intact desertscrub, grasslands, woodlands, and forest habitats.
  • Maintain and improve status and distribution of endemic SGCN snails and reduce threats to their populations and habitat.
  • Conserve and protect a unique example of a sky island ecosystem and the populations of SGCN avian species that depend on them.
  • Increase connectivity to other mountain ranges and significant wildland blocks.


Primary Threats

3. Climate Change and Severe Weather

3.1: Habitat shifting and alteration

4. Residential and Commercial Development

4.1: Housing and urban areas
4.3: Tourism and recreation areas

7. Human Intrusions and Disturbance

7.1: Recreational activities

8. Invasive and Other Problematic Species

8.1: Invasive non-native species

9. Natural System Modifications

9.1: Fire and fire suppression

Potential Conservation Actions

1. Land and Water Protection

1.2: Resource and habitat protection
  • Develop conservation easements on public or private lands in order to maintain and protect wildlife corridors.

2. Land and Water Management

2.1: Site/area management
  • Conserve or improve areas for migratory birds identified as important habitats during any part of their annual life cycle (breeding, stopover, or wintering).
2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Conduct monitoring and targeted removal efforts to limit establishment and spread of invasive species (e.g. buffelgrass, fountain grass).
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Manage for forest thinning and prescribed burns to create healthy habitats less prone to catastrophic wildfires and resilient to drought and insect infestations.

3. Species Management

3.1: Management of specific species of concern
  • Implement conservation actions to promote populations of SGCN species, including translocations and insurance populations when necessary.
  • Conduct surveys and monitor populations of SGCN as specified in work plans and job statements
  • Manage habitats for desert bighorn sheep populations, including removing invasive plant species and restoring natural fire regimes.
  • Improve management and restoration of agave species to provide resources and migration corridors for lesser long-nosed bat and other pollinator species.
3.2: Species recovery
  • Rescue (salvage) native aquatic wildlife at risk from imminent threats, and return salvaged wildlife when conditions are appropriate.

4. Education and Awareness

4.3: Awareness and communication
  • Develop outreach programs for the public on impacts to wildlife, agriculture, and recreation from introduced species.
  • Incorporate citizen science programs to identify distribution of invasives ( SEEDN, iMapInvasives, etc.).

5. Law and Policy

5.2: Policies and regulations
  • Work with local governments to incorporate wildlife protections and habitat connectivity into general plans.
5.4: Compliance and enforcement
  • Improve OHV management and enforcement to reduce adverse impacts to habitats.

7. External Capacity Building

7.2: Alliance and partnership development
  • Support partnerships and alliances to promote information sharing, learning, and collaboration.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Lowland Leopard Frog


American Peregrine Falcon, Blue-throated Mountain-gem, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Elf Owl, Flammulated Owl, Gilded Flicker, Golden Eagle, Gould's Turkey, Mexican Spotted Owl, American Goshawk (Northern Goshawk), Red-faced Warbler, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Posta Quemada Talussnail, Santa Catalina Talussnail


Arizona Gray Squirrel, Big Free-tailed Bat, California Leaf-nosed Bat, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Fringed Myotis, Hoary Bat, Lesser Long-nosed Bat, Mexican Long-tongued Bat


Arizona Black Rattlesnake, Canyon Spotted Whiptail, Gila Monster, Madrean Alligator Lizard, Regal Horned Lizard, Tiger Rattlesnake


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • Saguaro National Park
  • Saguaro Wilderness
  • Rincon Mountain Wilderness
  • Pusch Ridge Wildnerness

Potential Partners

  • National Parks Service
  • Tucson Audubon Society
  • Friends of Saguaro National Park
  • Sky Island Alliance
  • Pima County
  • University of Arizona
  • US Forest Service - Coronado Ranger District
  • Arizona Trail Association

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs