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County Board of Supervisors approves Special Use Permit for Southwest Wildlife


Elizabeth Medora

SCOTTSDALE – The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved a Special Use Permit for Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center at a June 22 meeting.

This Special Use Permit will allow wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation center Southwest Wildlife, located in the Rio Verde area, to hold public assemblies and special events, such as tours of the facilities. According to the summary from the June 22 meeting, the Special Use Permit will be good for 20 years from the date of the approval. The conditions set by the approval of the permit include that SWCC will need to submit a written report outlining the status of the development in two years from now. This status report will be reviewed by county staff to determine whether the Special Use Permit remains in compliance with the approved conditions, and/or whether additional status reports will be necessary, according to the meeting summary.

The motion to approve the permit was approved 4-0, with Supervisors Clint Hickman, Andrew Kunasek, Steve Chucri, and Steve Gallardo all voting yes; Supervisor Denny Barney was absent.

In a June 22 Facebook post, Southwest Wildlife announced that the Board of Supervisors had granted the Special Use Permit.

“It's official! The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved our special use permit! Thank you to Supervisor Chucri and his colleagues for allowing us to continue with our mission. We're so grateful for the public’s unwavering support. Every voice does make a difference!” the post affirmed.

Supervisor Chucri issued a statement on June 22, following the vote, stating why he supported Southwest Wildlife’s permit request.

“Whether you’re talking about coyotes, javelina, bobcats, or grey wolves, we are fortunate to live among them in their natural habitat. The vast array of animals in the Valley is one of the best and most unique aspects of living in the desert. Sometimes these animals get sick or are injured, needing a place to rest, recuperate, and get healthy,” Chucri said in the statement. “That’s why the work performed at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) in Scottsdale is critical to our community. Today, I’m proud to say the Board of Supervisors approved a Special Use Permit to allow them to continue operating as they have for more than 20 years.”

Chucri noted that Southwest Wildlife rescues and rehabilitates wildlife that has been injured, displaced, or orphaned and that the conservation center also provides volunteer dispatch teams that respond to wildlife emergencies and an on-site medical care center.

“SWCC releases 70% of the animals they see back into the wild and, as an American Sanctuary Association accredited sanctuary, it houses animals that cannot be released,” Chucri said.

Chucri recounted the educational work of Southwest Wildlife, noting that many visitors, including school children, have visited the center and learned the right ways to interact with wildlife and about the importance of native wildlife to healthy ecosystems.
“Over the past few months, I have received hundreds of communications from my constituents in support of SWCC,” Chucri said. “They have said that the work and education SWCC does is ‘irreplaceable.’ They say that it is a ‘wonderful resource that represents so much of who we are in Arizona,’ and that losing SWCC would be ‘a serious blow to the community.’”

Chucri noted that Southwest Wildlife’s continued success depends on funds collected from tours they conduct so they can feed, house, and care for the animals.

“The number of those tours has decreased dramatically in the past year since the SWCC was limited by a temporary use permit following a noise complaint. But the population they serve hasn’t decreased,” Chucri added.

In the past several months, Southwest Wildlife has also been facing a lawsuit from a neighbor regarding noise and dust complaints. That lawsuit continues; no updates have been made public at this time.

Southwest Wildlife has repeatedly thanked the community for their support as the center has fought to remain open and to be able to continue to care for animals in need.

“We’ve said it before, but we can’t say it enough – this would not have been possible without YOU! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support!” Southwest Wildlife said as part of a June 24 Facebook post. The center has received overwhelming backing from the community, including a petition in support of the center that was signed by over 200,000 people.

Supervisor Chucri said of Southwest Wildlife: “We could not simply let it disappear. We owe it to our wildlife and our community to give them the support they need and deserve. Today, I stand alongside my fellow County Supervisors in full support of SWCC and their mission,” Chucri concluded his June 22 statement.