Group works to preserve Sonoran Desert

This generation is responsible for the environment of generations to come was the core point of a presentation on the Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal last week at the Wigwam resort.

The plan provides for conservation efforts of U.S. Bureau of Land Management acreage, said Ian Dowdy, a representative of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.

The public lands encompassed by the proposal are primarily in western Maricopa County and form a rough crescent shape from the northern to southern portions of the county.  All the lands in the proposal are west of the White Tank Mountains and are public lands managed by the BLM.

Other partners of the project include the Sonoran Institute, the Wilderness Society, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Friends of Saddle Mountain, various developers, cities and towns and Fighter Country Partnership, which advocates for Luke Air Force Base, he said.

"This is a comprehensive, pragmatic conservation plan," Dowdy said.  "The goal is to try to marry the reality of people who actually use the land with conservation needs, because sometimes they're in conflict."

He spoke during an unveiling of the proposal May 25 at the Wigwam in Litchfield Park.

"Right now, as it stands, the land cannot be developed by developers or private interests," he said.  "It doesn't mean it can be that way forever."

Since 1961, about 6 percent of federal lands in Arizona have become private lands.

The Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal outlines ways to protect the land, which will ultimately be encroached upon by development as populations continue to expand, Dowdy said.

The land also needs to be protected from recreational users by giving them designated areas to enjoy their sports in, he said.

"Reality is, development is imminent on the edges of these lands," he said. "When that happens, people buy the homes and then the next thing they do is buy the ATV because they have a desert behind them. And that is fine, because a lot of land has already been impacted and used for riding, but people need to do it on the parts it's reserved for."

To protect the lands, the proposal will go to the public first for resolution on any issues still needing to be addressed.  Organizers then want bipartisan support from state legislators.

To be finalized, the plan must be approved by Congress.

The proposal preserves natural, cultural and recreational resources; ensures the viability of nearby military facilities; allows for future renewable energy development; and protects important wildlife habitats and migration corridors, organizers said.

Above all, it protects our future, Arizona historian Marshall Trimble said.

"No one quite predicted the rapid growth that took place in Arizona over the last half of the 20th century, and thus we have inherited this globe as caretakers" he said. "We inherited a challenge that must be dealt with and we must step in and face this challenge.

"Your children will thank you. Your children's children will thank you, as will continuous generations yet to come."

For more information about the plan and to view maps of the area, visit www.sonoranheritage.org.

 

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