Sonoran Institute Names Maria Baier New CEO – 11.15.2012

“The board conducted an intensive search process and interviewed a number of excellent candidates,” says Bill Mitchell, chairman of the Sonoran Institute Board of Directors. “Maria was our top choice, and we are thrilled that she has accepted our offer. Mitchell indicated that the board was unanimous in endorsing her for the CEO position. “We are very excited about the enthusiasm, vitality, and vision that she brings to our organization for the future.” 

“I am delighted to be offered the opportunity to lead the Sonoran Institute as CEO,” Baier says. “Working with Luther and the Institute over the years, I have developed a deep respect and appreciation for the Institute’s employees, mission, and unique approach to collaborative conservation. I am very excited to be part of this organization and look forward to starting as soon as possible.”

Working as Commissioner of the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) since 2009, Baier has been responsible for managing millions of acres of Arizona state trust lands. During her tenure at ASLD, the department earned about $560 million in revenues for the Trust, due to an active leasing and sales program involving over 25,000 acres. Included in 25,000 acres was 16,000 acres under the Arizona Preserve Initiative Program which will be used for parks and preserves for communities across the state. Proceeds from land sales and leasing primarily benefit schools and education in Arizona. Baier also used her position at ASLD to lead on renewable energy projects, including setting up the state’s first renewable energy mapping system, and negotiating the first of several agreements to lease state trust lands for large-scale commercial solar and wind farms in Arizona.

“Maria has been a wonderful asset to my administration through her leadership of the Arizona State Land Department,” said Governor Brewer. “She has such a wealth of public policy experience, so I’m glad she will continue to positively impact the way in which Arizona grows and develops via her important work at the Sonoran Institute. I wish her all the best.”

Prior to assuming this position, Baier served as a Phoenix City Councilwoman, where she chaired the Economy, Commerce and Sustainability Subcommittee and served on a variety of other committees.

“I have known Maria for years and have watched her career path,” says John Shepard, senior adviser at the Institute. “She is very familiar with the issues the Sonoran Institute works on and is the perfect choice for leading its next chapter as one of the foremost conservation organizations in the West.”

Baier has also held several executive positions, including president of MBC, Inc., a sustainability consulting firm specializing in sustainable land-use and natural resource management practice; president and CEO of Valley Partnership, a trade organization whose primary mission is to “advocate responsible development,” primarily on behalf of the commercial real estate development industry; and director of the Trust for Public Land, Arizona Field Office.

She spent 10 years on the Executive Staff of the Office of the Governor, serving two administrations. She served as senior policy advisor in the areas of natural resources, growth and development, environmental quality, and criminal justice. She also has a background in communications, having served as deputy director of communications and lead speechwriter while with the Governor’s Office and as public information officer for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

Baier is a member of the Arizona State Bar and volunteers on numerous state boards and commissions including the Trust for Public Land Arizona Advisory Board, Foundation for Blind Children, Great Hearts Academies Board of Directors, and the Urban Land Institute Advisory Board. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University and her Juris Doctor from the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

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. For more information, visit