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Hearing for Southwest Wildlife’s Special Use Permit request set for May 5


Elizabeth Medora

SCOTTSDALE – Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center’s Special Use Permit request is moving forward. The permit request is scheduled to be heard before the Maricopa County Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday, May 5, at the Board of Supervisors Auditorium in downtown Phoenix.

After the hearing at the Planning & Zoning Commission, SWCC’s Special Use Permit request is scheduled to be heard by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on June 8.

On April 6, SWCC representatives and community members supporting the conservation center presented a petition with over 180,000 signatures to the Board of Supervisors, asking for the center to be granted the needed permit. SWCC has faced a complaint from one neighbor, as well as a lawsuit over noise and dust from the same neighbor. A Special Use Permit from the county will assist the center continue to operate.

After the April 6 presentation, Maricopa County District 2 Supervisor Steve Chucri expressed support for Southwest Wildlife in a press conference.

“I will tell you that Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is not only a gem for Maricopa County, it’s a gem for the state,” Chucri emphasized. “The work they do, the passion they exhibit on a daily basis is fundamentally important to protecting these animals and also to nurturing and bringing them back to good health.”

Chucri noted that he applauded SWCC Director Linda Searles and all the SWCC volunteers and supporters for their work.

“I stand ready to do all that I can do to continue my support,” Chucri said. “We’ll continue to do all that we can to ensure that they’re successful and that this effort continues.”

If granted, the Special Use Permit would allow Southwest Wildlife to continue its educational programs. These programs and tours help provide revenue to fund the center. Funding is vital for SWCC, as the center always has lots of mouths to feed. Many of the center’s wildlife residents are not able to be released into the wild and need lifelong care. The center also takes in orphaned wildlife, working around the clock to make sure the babies get the care they need and trying to ensure that the babies can be released when they’re old enough.

SWCC Education Program Assistant Robyn Moul noted that last summer, the center took in over 20 coyote pups and was able to release all of them into the wild when they were big enough. Keeping the babies wild is paramount for SWCC; many of their sanctuary wildlife residents are there because they were kept as pets and can’t live as wild animals now. Southwest Wildlife places orphaned wildlife with sanctuary foster parents, if possible, including coyote and bobcat parents who watch out for the babies and help teach them what they need to know.

SWCC also regularly cares for javelina babies. Moul noted that javelina babies can come in at any time of the year, so staff has to be ready at any time to care for them. Since all these babies need specialty formula, the center’s costs of operation rise when an influx of babies comes in.

Southwest Wildlife is part of the Mexican Gray Wolf recovery program, which is working to keep these rare subspecies from going extinct. SWCC also is helping with the burro overpopulation problem in the north valley; they work with the Bureau of Land Management to provide a safe haven for burros when needed.

The future of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center will be greatly affected by whether or not the Special Use Permit is granted. So far, the center has received an outpouring of support from the community, including from Supervisor Chucri. Letters of support have been sent on the center’s behalf, and a petition started by a north Scottsdale resident garnered over 180,000 signatures in support of the center.

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