Major Preserve Proposed for Lands West of Phoenix

Large swaths of pristine desert land in western Maricopa County would remain unspoiled under a plan unveiled Wednesday. The Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal would preserve recreational opportunities while protecting wildlife habitat and migration corridors.

Now is the time to act, says Marshall Trimble, Arizona's official state historian, because urban Phoenix continues to expand.

"We need these little sanctuaries like this, where people can go, where they can have their parks and have their hiking trails and their biking and their horses, that a crowded suburban area needs."

Ron Sites, director of Fighter Country Partnership, a Luke Air Force Base support group, says the proposal dovetails nicely with the flight-training mission of the base.

"It supports the future airspace that Luke Air Force Base needs to continue its mission. We all know what kind of economic engine the base is for our economy. There's a lot of benefits for preserving the ground and the air."

The plan helps preserve some of the wide-open spaces that help define the history, heritage and legacy of Arizona, Trimble says.

"You can get out of your car and take a hike and make footprints on land that maybe no human has left a print for a thousand years."

The lands in the proposal form a rough crescent shape from north to south, on the western side of the White Tank Mountains. Wildlife includes desert tortoises and herds of bighorn sheep. Trimble says preservation would be "a gift" to the people of Arizona and future generations.

"(It) really belongs to everybody and nobody. And it's free and it's got plant and wildlife galore. And even if you don't want to go out there, it's still comforting to know that there is a sanctuary out there."

The proposal is backed by organizations ranging from cities and conservation groups to developers and supporters of Luke Air Force Base. No private lands are involved. Congressional approval would be needed.

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