Beloved wildlife refuge seeks to recover after months on the brink of closing

Guest Opinion//July 7, 2016

Beloved wildlife refuge seeks to recover after months on the brink of closing

Guest Opinion//July 7, 2016

A large male Cougar resting on a rock overhang.

After spending more than a year wondering if a legal and zoning complaint would end the mission of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC), it appears we are on the road to recovery.

Located just outside the Scottsdale city limits, the SWCC serves the entire state of Arizona, providing a home for native wild animals that have lost their homes to development, or are found injured, orphaned, or abandoned.  It is the last refuge for bears, mountain lions, jaguars, porcupines, skunks, wolves and other animals that dot our landscape.

Linda Searles
Linda Searles

In 2015, a zoning complaint that was not initiated by the county severely restricted our ability to conduct tours and youth camps which were central to our fundraising. The situation was dire. Indeed, we thought our last breath as a last refuge wasn’t far away. But then the public rallied to our cause.

This culminated on June 22 when the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors resolved the problem by giving us a special use permit. This was government at its best.

Even though we took a significant financial hit, we were able to get by thanks to generous contributors who helped us through the crisis.

Special thanks to the scores of donors who kept us afloat especially the Pulliam Charitable Trust which donated $100,000. You will never know the difference that you made. Animals can’t speak, but I can for them. Thank you from them; from their hearts, paws, and fur.

Thanks to the more than 200,000 people who signed a petition in support of the Center, especially Richelle Fatheree who started that petition.

Thanks to government leaders who rallied to our cause. Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri was instrumental in helping us through the permit process. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane wrote and the City Council passed a resolution of support.

Thanks to the Maricopa County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for approving the permit.

We receive wildlife from all over the state. Countless critters pass through our doors. We provide tours and youth camps to help educate the public about native species. When possible, the animals in our care are rehabilitated and released healthy back to the wild where they belong. We provide a permanent home to the animals that cannot be returned to the wild.

It’s not easy work but it is rewarding. It’s also expensive. The animals we care for don’t arrive with credit cards. We are now in the process of trying to recuperate from our financial losses. Based on the words and deeds of our supporters this past year, I am optimistic we will recover. The animals who benefit from our center may not be able to express their gratitude, but I am. Thanks to all who helped save this treasure in the desert. I hope to see you at the center soon. And so do the animals who can now rest a lot easier.

For more information on the SWCC or to make a donation please go to www.southwestwildlife.org.

Linda Searles is the director of the Southwest Wildlife and Conservation Center