2012 Annual Report - Crossroads
Crossroads are an exciting place to be. Not only do they offer the prospect of change, but they also represent the power of choice. Even if difficult, the decision is ours to make, the challenge ours to meet.
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Mission and Vision
The Sonoran Institute inspires and enables community decisions and public policies that respect the land and people of western North America. Facing rapid change, communities in the West value their natural and cultural resources, which support resilient environmental and economic systems.
Founded in 1990, the Sonoran Institute helps communities conserve and restore those resources and manage growth and change through collaboration, civil dialogue, sound information, practical solutions and big-picture thinking.
Our passion is to help shape the future of the West with:
- Healthy Landscapes that support native plants and wildlife, diverse habitat, open spaces, clean energy and water, and fresh air.
- Livable communities where people embrace conservation to protect quality of life today and in the future.
- Vibrant economies that support prosperous communities, diverse opportunities for residents, productive working landscapes and stewardship of the natural world.
The Sonoran Institute is a nonprofit organization with offices in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona; Bozeman, Montana; Glenwood Springs, Colorado and Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.
From Chief Executive Officer Maria Baier
Grizzlies, saguaros and glistening whitewater. Yellowstone, Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Sonoran Desert and other iconic landscapes. The legendary land that is the West attracts many visitors and new residents, and profound change is underway.
From building railroads and massive dams to protecting public lands, the West has long been the home of big, bold ideas. Now is the time for another – a West, as writer Wallace Stegner envisioned, with a civilization as magnificent as the scenery that surrounds us, with healthy land, clean water, sustainable energy, resilient economies and vibrant communities.
Realizing this ambitious vision requires engaging diverse perspectives and interests to make collaborative decisions. Since 1990, the Sonoran Institute has applied its unique brand of collaborative conservation on the key challenges in the West, including smart growth, public lands, water and climate change. Our work is based on a belief that civil dialogue, meaningful public participation, and access to the best information and most innovative tools will help citizens, community leaders and federal and state agencies make better land-use decisions and forge effective and enduring conservation solutions.
The Institute has identified four key landscape areas in the West as priorities for our work. We call these landscapes “legacy” areas, and they include:
Sun Corridor - From north of Phoenix to south and east of Tucson, urban Arizona is the fastest–sprawling metropolitan area in the United States. More than 9 million people are projected to live in the corridor by 2030, compared to an estimated 5 million in 2010. This metropolitan area also includes magnificent wildlands, imperiled desert rivers, and some of the best solar energy potential in North America.
Northern Rockies - This area is home to abundant wildlife and celebrated wild lands – Glacier National Park, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho, and the Greater Yellowstone region. Despite vast public lands, poorly-planned private land development threatens key wildlife corridors and winter range, and poor land-use planning threatens the very foundation of the regional economy.
Colorado River Delta - The Delta of the Colorado River is a remnant of its former self, yet remains a significant wetland, a critical cultural resource for the native Kwapa people, a stopover for migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway, and a leading source of freshwater to the Upper Gulf of California. The potential for the Delta’s restoration is enormous and the cost is relatively modest.
Western Colorado - The allure of Western Colorado is undeniable, but like most of the American West, the region has experienced rapid growth in recent decades, often at the expense of important community values. Growth will continue, but prevailing development patterns place increasing strain on water, agricultural lands, community coffers, and the quality of life that attracted many people to the region in the first place.
We employ five key strategies in our work:
- First, we carry out place-based projects to promote conservation and smart growth. Our work is grounded in the lessons we learn in the field. In places as diverse as the Colorado River Delta, the high desert grasslands adjoining metropolitan Tucson, and the lush mountain passes of western Montana, we help local officials and grass-roots leaders solve local land-use challenges. We are not merely a “think tank” – our “boots on the ground” in the field produces solid experience and information, which we bring to other projects.
- Second, our research and analysis give decision-makers and communities the information and tools to better manage growth, promote conservation and create sustainable futures. Our team of economists and policy experts provide research to help communities understand their local and regional economy, assess the impacts of growth, energy development, and climate changes, and understand the implications of various growth scenarios. Our unique partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy adds to our capacity in using research and analysis to inform our field work, our training programs and our policy reform efforts.
- Third, we train key decision makers in the West. Working with the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and others, the Institute trains local leaders across the West to help them better manage growth and change. We also offer training tailored to the needs of specific communities or regions on topics such as land use, energy sustainability and best development practices. We follow up our training programs with technical assistance to help local leaders implement effective solutions.
- Fourth, we expand public awareness of the need for conservation, smart growth and sustainable solutions. To nurture and build an emerging, broad-based conservation constituency in the West, we articulate an inclusive vision linking a healthy environment to economic prosperity and quality of life. The recession and associated housing bust in the West underscores the importance of enacting more thoughtful land-use policies and creating more fiscally sound, and environmentally sustainable communities. We then communicate with key audiences to share our research, lessons learned and community successes and to help transform public concern about growth patterns, the environment and climate change into effective action.
- Fifth, we advocate for state and federal public policies that better protect natural areas, promote sustainable resource use, and provide communities with the authority and resources to manage growth. The Institute’s leadership on State Trust Land reform efforts across the West is a good example of our work in this area. We promote reforms that give counties and communities the authority, resources, expertise and tools to manage growth and protect their assets and values. Building on relationships we develop in the field and in our training programs, we provide information and support for county commissioners and other local leaders to advocate for legislation and policy reforms that foster better land-use and growth management.
We can all make better decisions for managing our land, water, and energy resources to accommodate growth and shape the future of the West and our lives. Good decisions require that communities come together to look at the big picture, define what is important to them, and determine how they will protect and conserve what they value as they grow and change.
The Sonoran Institute is dedicated to inspiring and enabling community decisions and public policies that respect the land and people of western North America. Our economists, scientists, planners, researchers, conservation advocates, facilitators and the rest of the staff are passionate about working toward a West with healthy landscapes, livable communities and vibrant economies, where conservation and prosperity go hand-in-hand. We heartily encourage and appreciate your involvement and support in this effort.
Chief Executive Officer