Photo credit: Darren Mitchell

The Case for Preserves

The Sonoran Desert-singular amongst deserts of the world.

From iconic saguaro to tiny Mammilaria cactus, prickly pears and chollas, spring annuals and winter blooming perennials, the Sonoran Desert is an astonishingly lush botanical treasure trove. This diversity of over 2000 species of plants provides habitat for a surprising number of animal species. Our desert is home to over 60 species of mammals, more than 350 kinds of birds, 20 species of amphibians, over 100 reptiles, and thousands of species of arthropods. Hot and dry it may be, but the Sonoran Desert teems with life.

Fortunately, during the last century, Arizonan visionaries foresaw the explosion of urban growth ahead and worked to establish large permanent desert nature preserves in and around Phoenix. In the 1920’s, the City of Phoenix purchased 13,000 acres which was the foundation of South Mountain Park/Preserve. Later, in the 1950s and 60s, with the backing of Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, municipal leaders established the beginnings of the Maricopa County preserve system, setting the stage for what would become the largest set of wild land preserves in any major metropolitan region.

However, the population of metropolitan Phoenix now exceeds 4.3 million people and urban development is considered one of the major factors in the designation of the Sonoran Desert as one of the 12 most at-risk environments in the United States by The Cultural Landscape Foundation1. Park boundaries alone do not guarantee conservation of these areas in perpetuity, the protection of their native flora and fauna, nor the maintenance of these areas as compelling attractions for visitors. As Phoenix metro is expected to top 6 million residents by 20302, now more than ever there is an urgency to bring to bear a dedicated, coordinated, sustained effort to care for these beautiful and biologically important desert open spaces.

The Conservation Alliance believes that by working together we can build on the accomplishments of our predecessors and our own organizations to create a model for sustaining our park preserves well into the future. We have inherited a legacy of protected desert landscapes, and our intent is to pass on this legacy, in even finer condition, to future generations.


1 http://tclf.org/news/press-coverage/12-most-risk-environments-and-places-america
2 https://population.az.gov/population-projections