It’s about more than conservation.

It’s about sustainable planning.

One of the most unique elements of the West is our natural surroundings. Deserts, mountain ranges, lakes, valleys — more than any other region, the West is a beautiful kaleidoscope of natural environments. And these environments are at risk. From unplanned development to extreme climate events, the West faces a distinct set of challenges. Help us tackle these challenges and build a sustainable future.

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Conserving Landscapes


Santa Cruz River

The Santa Cruz River has provided life-giving water for more than 12,000 years. Unfortunately, in recent years, the river is all but dry, endangering not only local communities and economies, but rare examples of wetland habitats.

Thanks to the efforts of the Sonoran Institute, the health of the river has improved as wastewater (also known as effluent) has been treated to higher standards and used to restore the river’s riparian corridor. Already we’re seeing water clarity and quality improve, aquatic wildlife thrive and nutrient pollution decline.

The Colorado River Delta

In the spring of 2014, a momentous event occurred: 105,000 acre-feet of water pulsed through the Colorado River Delta, reinvigorating wildlife habitats and bringing new economic opportunities to the local communities.

Since then, The Sonoran Institute continues to expand our restoration efforts, and we are actively monitoring the life-giving effects of the renewed, restored and reconnected Delta. From cottonwood seedlings taking root to new habitat renewal efforts, the Colorado River Delta Program continues to be a shining example of positive environmental change.

State Trust Lands

Our work with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy ensures the state trust lands of the West are planned, managed and preserved with an eye toward future sustainability.

Working together, we’ve been able to prove the viability (economically and politically) of conservation efforts on state trust lands. By monetizing conservation efforts, we’re able to reduce environmentally harmful alternatives, and further support the balance between our built and natural environments.

Success Stories

Cleanup crew volunteers.
Mexicali Fluye: Getting Good Things Flowing in Our Communities

There was no way to avoid it. A mountain of old tires, plastic containers, household garbage, and other assorted junk piled up to four times their height loomed just steps away from the… MORE ›

Colorado River Delta, Mexico. Heli Flight Sonoran Institute 2-3 July 2015.

©Bill Hatcher 2015
From Sewage to Sanctuary: Las Arenitas Treatment Wetland

Green infrastructure—using nature’s ability to provide the same services associated with more conventional “grey” infrastructure—offers tremendous ecological and economic benefits. Nowhere is this more evident than on a 250-acre wetland we created to treat wastewater and serve as a refuge for birds and other wildlife in the Colorado River Delta.

Pilot Channel on the lower Colorado River Delta at low tide the wet sand marks the high tide mark.
Colorado River Delta, Mexico. Heli Flight Sonoran Institute 2-3 July 2015.

©Bill Hatcher 2015
Restoring the Colorado River Estuary

Innovative. Collaborative. Turning the impossible to possible. That is what we are doing in the Colorado River Delta and our newest effort in the estuary—one of the most productive and endangered ecosystems on earth—combines these themes.


Challenges For Our Landscapes

The Colorado River Basin

Protecting the life source of the West has never been more important. Water is life. And there’s no better example of this than the West. Water is the source of community development, agriculture…

Mountain Town
Growth and Infrastructure

Growth is a good thing, right? Absolutely, especially when talking about the communities and economies that continue to flourish in the West. However, successful and sustainable…

Forest fire burning in Montana east of Missoula late July 2007.
Extreme Climate Events

Leading communities to successful futures through up-to-date climate research. From droughts to floods to forest fires, the West is not immune to…


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