A horse grazes on protected land near Amado.

Tucson conservation has purchased 371 acres of an Amado property that straddles Pima and Santa Cruz counties.

The Arizona Land and Water Trust, which already owns conservation easements on a number of properties in Santa Cruz County, said last week that the purchase is part of a larger plan to buy 1,310 acres of the Sopori Creek and Farm to develop an agricultural apprenticeship program.

ALWT called the property “a unique area with rare grandfathered water rights, irrigated farmland, a rich biotic community and a storied history.” It also includes one mile of Sopori Creek, a major tributary of the Santa Cruz River.

ALWT said they’d raised nearly $3 million toward an $8 million goal for the project. ALWT already owned 2,550 acres of the Sopori Ranch.

The property is part of a larger area covering almost 20,000 protected acres, according to the the news release. The majority of that is protected under the Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

The majority of ALWT’s purchases in Southern Arizona have been conservation easements, which give the trust the development rights to a property but don’t actually change ownership of the land. That means original owners typically continue using their land but aren’t allowed to develop them.

That was the case with a deal announced earlier this year in which the trust purchased a conservation easement to protect 1,150 acres of the Rose Tree Ranch near Elgin, or an easement it purchased in early 2020 to preserve 2,488 acres of the Babacomari Ranch in Eastern Santa Cruz County.

In the latest purchase in Amado, ALWT is directly acquiring land.