New bill would expand Saguaro National Park - Tucson News Now

New bill would expand Saguaro National Park

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Saguaro National Park may be expanding, even though people are already living on the park's eastern and western sites.

If a new bill passes, more than 2,000 acres will be added to the national park.

Currently, a nature photographer owns 50 acres around Sweetwater Drive, and he's one of a dozen land owners included in the expansion effort.

All of the land owners were handpicked based off the environmental value of their land and their willingness to eventually sell to the park.

Thomas Wiewandt owns a portion of the desert which is used by animals as a natural pathway to the Santa Cruz River.

Saguaro National Park would like to protect this land for animals and for hikers who don't want to see homes and roads built through the landscape.

If you're a hiker and you like the views in either park, this bill will prevent efforts to build large roads through the space if it is officially designated as part of the park.

A representative with the national parks conservation association says Congress needs to act now to keep development from creeping in.

"One parcel is kind of land locked, but they have an easement across the park where they can build a road should they choose to develop it, said Kevin Dahl with the National Parks Conservation Association. "It's a beautiful trail right now we want that to be maintained as a horse and pedestrian trail and not a road for a private developer."

Right now, the land can't be protected because it's not yet designated as federal park space.

"I've maintained this property as a wildlife sanctuary since I've been here.  It provides a buffer zone between the urban expansion and the park itself."

There could be some action on this bill in the fall. The number of people visiting Saguaro National Park has gone up while Arizona's national parks have seen an overall drop in visitors, so parts of this bill aim to protect the tourism aspect.

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