F-35 and Sonoran Desert Heritage the Future of West Valley

Conserving Public Land Assists National Security

PHOENIX – The Department of Defense announced this week that Luke Air Force Base remains the preferred
location for the new F-35A Training Center. This is good news for Luke AFB,
good news for Arizona, and good news, in particular, for Glendale and the west
valley. Important considerations that give Luke an advantage over other
potential sites include its open space, potential for future growth, and easy
and fast access to nearby ranges such as the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
Preserving these competitive advantages is a question of preserving public
lands and open space in the northern Sonoran Desert—the goal of the Sonoran
Desert Heritage effort (www.SonoranHeritage.org).
 

“The Sonoran Desert Heritage plan preserves the ground, which preserves the airspace that the F-16s
and future F-35s fly in,” said Ron Sites, President of Fighter Country
Partnership, “that airspace is vital for future missions at Luke Air Force
Base.”
 

Maintaining open space under the flight training routes between Luke and the Goldwater Range is
essential to the continued viability of Luke as a fighter training base; it
also enhances the effectiveness of the Goldwater Range as a training
destination for other airfields. “When we overlay the flight training routes
onto our Sonoran Desert Heritage maps the alignment is striking and the benefits
to the airspace are clear,” said Ian Dowdy, Conservation Outreach Associate for
the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.
 

As urban development moves into the west valley, preserving wildlands also preserves Luke’s
viability into the future. “By preserving intact habitat and species on public
lands off-base, we minimize the possibility that Luke or the Goldwater Range
will become refuges of last resort for endangered species,” said Mike Quigley,
Arizona Representative for The Wilderness Society. “The Sonoran Desert Heritage
plan is good for habitat and wildlife, and it’s good for Luke and Goldwater;
it’s a win-win.”
 

By designating Wilderness and National Conservation Area status on existing federal public
land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Sonoran Desert Heritage plan
directs management of those lands for conservation and traditional recreation
values, aiming to preserve the land as it is today for future generations.
 

“The Sonoran Desert Heritage plan was developed through a transparent and thoughtful process,” said
Dave Richins, Sun Corridor Legacy Program Director for the Sonoran Institute.
“It is a balance of traditional uses, needed conservation, preservation of
quality-of-life for west valley residents; and it also provides great value to
the continued thriving of Arizona’s military air training facilities.”
 

“A recently-retired Marine Corps General once said ‘a country worth defending is a country worth
preserving’, “noted Quigley. “In this case, preserving is also helping with the
defending.”
 

The Sonoran Desert Heritage plan is supported by a wide range of interests, including conservation
organizations, cultural and archaeological preservation groups, developers,
businesses, local elected officials, faith communities, and many others.
Implementation of the plan requires positive action from Arizona’s
congressional delegation.
 

### 

The Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s mission is to permanently protect and restore
wilderness and other wild lands and waters in Arizona for the enjoyment of all
citizens and to ensure that Arizona's native plants and animals have a lasting
home in wild nature. We do this by coordinating and conducting inventories,
educating citizens about these lands, enlisting community support, and
advocating for their lasting protection. www.azwild.org.
 

The Wilderness Society is the leading public lands conservation organization
working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild
places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters,
TWS has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness
and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.
 

The Sonoran Institute inspires and enables community decisions and public policies
that respect the land and people of western North America. The Institute is a
nonprofit organization that is working to shape the future of the West.  www.sonoraninstitute.org.