Open House Meetings to Gather Feedback on Sonoran Desert Heritage Conservation Plan

Local citizens invited to attend, give feedback on the plan for West Valley public lands.

PHOENIX - The Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation initiative-a broad coalition of communities, organizations, developers, military interests, and faith groups-is inviting the public to provide candid feedback on its proposal to conserve and protect additional public lands in western Maricopa County.

A series of public meetings will begin on November 3rd in Avondale to kick off a crucial planning phase for the conservation initiative, which aims to protect approximately 750,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands for recreational access, wildlife, and archaeological significance in the region west and south of the White Tank Mountains. Additional meetings are scheduled in Tonopah, Wickenburg, Surprise, and Buckeye.

"This area - while far to the west now - will continue to be scrutinized for development potential,"   says Eric Gorsegner, associate director with the Sonoran Institute's Sun Corridor Legacy Program.  "The goal of the proposal is to protect open space, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities, which bring over $5 billion annually into Arizona's economy.  We've crafted it carefully, taking into account future development, transportation and energy infrastructure plans, and the needs of Luke Air Force Base."

The public meetings require no RSVP and will be structured in an informal way so that participants can peruse maps and materials about the draft proposal. Coalition members from local groups will be present to answer questions and take comments from meeting attendees.

"This proposal did not begin in a vacuum, nor should it be considered by Congress until it has been appropriately vetted by the public at large," says Ian Dowdy, an urban planner with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. "People of Arizona take umbrage with dictates handed down from Washington-this proposal is just the opposite: driven by local groups and tailored to fit the needs of all stakeholders of these valuable landscapes."

Sonoran Desert Heritage coalition members kicked off the initiative in May, with a rollout reception that highlighted details of the plan and featured key supportive stakeholders from Fighter Country Partnership, DMB Associates, Inc., Abengoa Solar, Arizona's official State Historian Marshall Trimble, Sunbelt Holdings, West Valley mayors, churches, and a host of others.

"This as a great opportunity to set a new standard for how conservation is done-in Arizona and around the country," says Dave Richins, director of the Sonoran Institute's Sun Corridor Legacy Program. "Our inclusive public process will allow us to shape what these irreplaceable public lands will look like in 50 or 100 years."

Coalition members and community supporters traveled to Washington, D.C. in September to meet with Arizona's congressional delegation about the proposal and educate them on the public process that will ensue this fall and winter, beginning with the open house meetings. The Arizona Republic endorsed the conservation initiative in August.

For more information about the proposal, visit www.sonoranheritage.org.

Meeting Times and Locations

Thursday Nov 3rd, 7-9 PM

Avondale Church of God

2605 N. Avondale Blvd.

Avondale, AZ 85323

Tuesday Nov 8th, 6-8 PM

Saddle Mountain RV Park

40902 W. Osborn Road

Tonopah, AZ 85354

Thursday Nov 10th, 7-9 PM

Wickenburg Community Center

175 E. Swilling

Wickenburg, AZ 85390

Tuesday Nov 15th, 7-9 PM

Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce

16126 N. Civic Center Plaza

Surprise, AZ 85374

Thursday Nov 17th, 7-9 PM

Buckeye Chamber of Commerce

508 E. Monroe Ave.

Buckeye, AZ 85326

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