Two non-profit organizations are working together to foster a sustainable environment and vibrant economy in the West Valley, recognizing the natural and cultural assets of these communities.
I was honored the Sonoran Institute and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition recently invited me to take an airplane tour to see and hear first hand about their efforts. Our six-person EcoFlight plane took off from Deer Valley Airport for an arial exploration of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management that may be suitable for solar/renewable energy development. These lands are included in the Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation proposal and are the target of a desert protection campaign to protect BLM lands for current residents and future generations.
A vast expanse of public lands are included in the conservation proposal, forming a crescent from the Lake Pleasant area, expanding west to the county border region, then curving east to the Sonoran Desert National monument. This comprehensive solution for ecosystem protection ensures the best possible integration of a variety of uses and users. The Sonoran Institute has been reaching out to a wide cross section of stakeholders, including land managers, developers, the military, local governments, user groups and other like-minded organizations, such as Valley Forward, that have an interest in both conservation land and renewable energy.
EcoFlight supports the initiative and helps foster public outreach by providing aviation services to those interested in land use issues associated with solar facilities and wind generating turbines. This unique group educates its passengers on how these renewable energy facilities will affect wildlife and conversation efforts. Seeing is believing; it’s an amazing perspective to view from above the corridors that exist or must be created to transmit and harness natural energy.
Conservation of these public lands provides many benefits, including protecting cultural resources, key wildlife habitat, water and air quality and recreational opportunities. As Western Maricopa County continues to grow over the coming decades, these valuable landscapes will be protected into perpetuity.
The bottom line is a robust renewable energy industry, and the economic prosperity that comes with it can be realized in a thoughtful manner that is respectful of our natural resources, including our wildlife, water and public lands.