It is the season of gratitude for the year’s achievements and the setting of intentions for the year to come. Here at the Sonoran Institute we are looking back on a year of great accomplishment, and looking forward to a new year where we can build on our successes and ring in new opportunities.
This year, we once again proved the Sonoran Institute model of collaboration and community engagement creates the greatest possibility for connecting people and communities to the natural resources that nourish and sustain them.
You—our donors, partners, staff, and board were all integrally involved in these successes and I truly can’t thank you enough. You make the difficult possible, the aspirations real.
If you haven’t already heard, our efforts to restore the Colorado River Delta took another momentous leap forward with the signing of Minute 323, the new binational water sharing agreement between the US and Mexico. This nine-year agreement ensures a more secure water future for Colorado River water users across the basin and supports the continued restoration of the Colorado River Delta. With the new agreement, Sonoran Institute and our partners in the Raise the River Coalition have set ambitious goals for the next five years to more than double the amount of restored riparian habitat in the Colorado River Delta. This agreement expands the scope of restoration beyond the river channel to embrace the innovative restoration work Sonoran Institute is leading in the Delta’s estuary and surrounding wetlands.
Closer to our headquarters in Tucson, Sonoran Institute has been working with a range of partners to develop a vision for the Santa Cruz that ensures water for nature while providing economic prosperity for our region, preservation of our cultural heritage, and a place for families to play. Our continuing work with Pima County to report on the natural assets of the river through our fish surveys and Living River reports led to the exciting discovery of the endangered Gila topminnow in the flowing stretch of the Santa Cruz just north of Tucson. The fish’s return attests to the improving health of the ecosystem.
The Santa Cruz is the oldest continuously inhabited river system in North America. I cannot overemphasize its historic, economic, cultural, and natural values. Sonoran Institute has studied this river for more than 25 years. Now we’re taking our work to the next level. We will begin by developing a comprehensive strategy for the river while increasing awareness and appreciation for the Santa Cruz and the benefits that it provides to the communities in southern Arizona. This fall, we saw Tucson’s hugely popular All Souls Procession move its focus and route to the Santa Cruz River drawing much needed attention to this historic resource, and we were there! We also led a collaborative effort on Airport Wash, a tributary of the Santa Cruz on the south side of Tucson, that builds green infrastructure to help a neighborhood deal with flooding during monsoon season. We’re excited to unveil this project to the community in early February!
In Colorado, Sonoran Institute launched Growing Water Smart, as a major initiative of Resilient Communities and Watersheds, a joint program with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Participating communities were introduced to a range of communications, community engagement, planning, and policy tools to better integrate land use and water planning, enabling them to effectively reach the goals stipulated in the Colorado Water Plan. Our first workshop included six communities and engaged City Councils, County Commissions, Planning Boards and a State Representative. In the coming year we will be following up with participants, facilitating at least one more workshop, and developing a strategic plan to bring this work to scale in Colorado and across the rest of the West.
All these efforts are designed to ensure sustainable communities and landscapes for future generations and to keep the West a great place to live. This is our intention—our resolution, this year and every year.
Blog Post By: Stephanie Sklar, Sonoran Institute
Stephanie Sklar is the Chief Executive Officer of the Sonoran Institute.