An Update From Our CEO

We’re Dedicated to Helping Communities Live Their Values

Change happens in communities by bringing people together, identifying shared values and finding common ground, which is what the Sonoran Institute does best. You and your community are the reason we’re so dedicated to preserving a sustainable future for everyone. Now, more than ever, we must come together for the benefit of everyone, to ensure that we preserve the values that make our region resilient and strong.

Just last month, I sat with representatives from the Colorado communities of Eagle County, Archuleta County, and the City of Arvada participating in our Resilient Communities series. I listened to story after story of the challenges they face—drought, wildfire and sustainability—that are ever increasing with the impact of climate change. Despite these challenges, they were full of energy, optimism, and gratitude for the support and training we can provide to set them on a positive course.

Communities west of Phoenix are facing an increased risk of flooding and wildfire because of die-offs of dense stands of invasive tamarisk (salt cedar) trees along the Gila River. The nonnative trees have caused ecological trouble for decades as they have spread throughout the Colorado River Basin and replaced native plants and habitat. The proposed solution, the introduction of tamarisk beetles meant to mitigate the spread, brings surprising new risks. Therefore, Sonoran Institute is supporting a new collaboration to restore the river. These restoration plans will be based on years of scientific findings and our track record of success in the Colorado River Delta and Santa Cruz River regions. Restoration of the Gila will provide habitat and also enhance the river as a recreational amenity that can be enjoyed by everyone.

We are dedicated to helping communities find a balance between their built environments and the natural world. We recently completed a pilot project in the form of a large-scale rain garden in a neighborhood on Tucson’s southside. Prior to the project’s completion even mildly rainy days resulted in catastrophic flooding. We worked with this community, relying on their input, to determine the project priorities. The rain garden installed at the Nueva Esperanza Church is now able to divert water, reduce flooding, and irrigate native vegetation. In time, trees planted throughout the garden will provide cooling shade and a place for people to come together and enjoy the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

The Santa Cruz River, an integral part of Tucson’s identity, is the reason people were able to settle in the Tucson area over 12,000 years ago. Through workshops and an online survey, Tucson and Marana residents shared their thoughts and ideas for this incredible Living River. The results will be used to inform decisions about how the river and its resources should be managed. The majority of people want to see the Santa Cruz as an open space to connect with nature–natural habitat for wild creatures such as hummingbirds, blue heron, frogs, and Gila topminnow and as an artery bringing life and adventure into the heart of the community. We want to see that, too.

Last weekend, I was honored and thrilled to attend the dedication of our new visitor center and educational facility at our Laguna Grande restoration site. The center is an important tool to inspire and educate visitors and school children on the global importance of the Delta ecosystem. Community members came together last Saturday to plant over 1,000 trees, adding to the over 200,000 trees we have already planted in the region. Such an incredible feat could not have happened without their participation.

We know what success looks like—abundant natural resources and wildlife, thriving economies, and a true sense of community. The way we achieve that success is by listening to community priorities and integrating their values into our efforts.

As a donor, volunteer, or partner, you are part of the Sonoran Institute’s community, and our success is your success. Thank you!


Blog Post By: Stephanie Sklar, Sonoran Institute

Stephanie Sklar

Stephanie Sklar is the Chief Executive Officer of the Sonoran Institute.