2013 Annual Report - Connections

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The Power of Connections

Connecting. It is what distinguishes our unique and successful approach to conservation and community development in the West.

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Home About Us People News

Sonoran Institute People News

The Sonoran Institute has employees who are passionate about the environment and committed to making a positive difference in the world. The Institute has many diverse and enthusiastic supporters of our unique brand of collaborative conservation and helping communities in the Intermountain West make the best decisions they can about their future. Our employees and partners tell their story below. Enjoy.

2014 Updates:

Stephanie C. Sklar - New Chief Executive Officer

Stephanie SklarThe Sonoran Institute Board of Directors announced that it has appointed Stephanie Sklar of Tucson, Arizona as its new chief executive officer (CEO), effective October 13, 2014. Sklar is currently the Director of Development for the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Sklar succeeds Maria Baier, who led the Sonoran Institute from 2012 - 2014.

“The Board conducted an intensive search process and interviewed a number of excellent candidates,” says Henri Bisson, chairman of the Sonoran Institute Board of Directors. “Stephanie was our top choice, and we are thrilled that she has accepted our offer.” Bisson indicated that the Board was unanimous in endorsing her for the CEO position. “We are very excited about the experience, vitality, and vision that Stephanie brings to our organization for the future.” 

"In recent years, I have had the opportunity to work in partnership with the Sonoran Institute and its dedicated team on a wide range of issues, including State Trust Land reform in Arizona and the development of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan,” says Stephanie. “The work of the Sonoran Institute is vitally important to the future of the West, and I am delighted at the opportunity to lead such a unique and forward-looking organization.”

As Director of Development for the Institute of the Environment since 2010, Sklar has been responsible for directing and managing all fund development activities for the Institute. Prior to working for the University of Arizona, she was the Executive Director of Social Venture Partners of Greater Tucson from 2007 – 2010. Sklar was formerly the Executive Director of the Arizona League of Conservation Voters, Arizona’s largest member-supported statewide conservation organization with offices in Tucson and Phoenix.

“Stephanie brings a tremendous breadth of experience and leadership skills to the Sonoran Institute,” says John Shepard, senior adviser and interim CEO at the Institute. “I have watched her career path since we first met in Washington, DC in the 1990s, and am very excited to work with her directly on some of the major challenges impacting the quality of life in communities across the West.”

Click here to learn more about Stephanie
(Posted September 2014)

Summer Waters to Lead Western Lands & Communities Program

Summer Waters 2014The Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy have announced that Summer Waters of Phoenix has been selected to lead the Western Lands and Communities program, a partnership initiative focused on shaping growth, sustaining cities, protecting resources, and empowering communities in the Intermountain West. Summer will assume the leadership position starting August, 18, 2014.

“Summer’s diverse background in land-use and natural resource planning make her ideally suited to lead our Western Lands and Communities program,” said John Shepard, interim Chief Executive Officer for the Sonoran Institute. “I am especially excited about her experience on water resource issues, which is a growing concern in the arid West and an expanding part of our overall program work.”

"Summer Waters will bring significant expertise and energy to this leadership position in our longstanding partnership with the Sonoran Institute, which has been a key focal point for our work on land issues in the West," said George W. McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Since 2008, Summer has worked for the University of Arizona as the Water Resources Extension Agent for Maricopa County, which includes the City of Phoenix. Her programs addressed a broad range of issues related to water, climate, and the environment, and received numerous awards including Arizona Forward’s Environmental Stewardship Crescordia and the Arizona State University President’s Award for Sustainability. Summer has also worked in California, for the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program coordinating regional storm water education. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of South Florida, and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

“I am deeply pleased to be selected to lead this unique partnership initiative, and looking forward to working to shape a new West – one that retains the elemental characteristics of an iconic past, yet embraces technologies of the future,” said Summer Waters. “The community-based collaborative approach pioneered by the Sonoran Institute has proven to the most effective way to guide western communities through the challenges of an uncertain future.”

Click here to read more about Summer
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
(Posted August 2014)

2013 Updates: 

Ian Dowdy Named New Director of the Sun Corridor Program

Ian Dowdy - headshot for webThe Sonoran Institute announced that Ian Dowdy, of Phoenix, Arizona, will be the new Director of the organization’s Sun Corridor Program. Dave Richins, the previous Director, left the Institute in early October 2013 for work in the private sector.

Dowdy joined the Sonoran Institute team on August 22, 2013, working as a project manager for the Sun Corridor Program, which is based in Phoenix, AZ. Prior to joining the Institute, Dowdy worked for the Arizona Wilderness Society.

“Ian comes to the Sonoran Institute with a wealth of experience on matters related to the Sun Corridor,” says Maria Baier, chief executive office of the Institute.” We are extremely pleased to have him participating on our behalf in policy development as well as on-the-ground work across the region. He elevates all conversations in which he is engaged and brings a refreshing optimism to the important work we do.”

“I am pleased to lend my small contribution to the storied legacy of the Sonoran Institute,” says Ian Dowdy. “As our region continues to grow, our organization will be looked to as a catalyst for rational dialogue and productive engagement.  It is my goal that the Sun Corridor Legacy Program retain its hard-earned role as a convener of ideas, a voice for collaboration, and a passionate leader for sustainability in Arizona.”

Click here for more information on Ian
Posted November, 2013

image003Ian Dowdy of the Sun Corridor Programs Accepts Major Award

An ambitious proposal to protect nearly 1 million acres of federal public lands in western Maricopa County has received a major award for smart planning. The Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) said the Sonoran Desert Heritage Conservation Plan will improve the quality of life for residents, business owners and tourists. Monty Stansbury chaired the awards committee. He said the plan deserves the group's "Best Project" award because it isn't just about resource conservation and preservation. 

"Public lands in Arizona are drivers for our economy," says Ian Dowdy AICP, project manager for the Sun Corridor Legacy Program with the Sonoran Institute. "Arizona's conserved public lands and open spaces attract a high skilled work force that sets us apart from the rest of the country. As an added benefit, land in this proposal prevents incompatible development from key training routes for Luke Air Force Base. This is a win-win-win for our economy and our quality of life." Read the story

Contact Ian Dowdy at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Posted October, 2013

Wendi Lucas - Photo for Web ProfileWendi Lucas Joins as New Chief Development Officer

A year ago, Wendi Lucas put her belongings in storage, loaded her car with bikes, kayaks and supplies, and left the East Coast to spend a month driving solo across the country.  She wasn’t certain of her final destination until the range and basin landscape encompassing Tucson came into view. She had found her new home. And the Sonoran Institute soon found its new Chief Development Officer.

“Wendi is the perfect fit for our organization’s ascending trajectory,” says Sonoran Institute Chief Executive Officer Maria Baier. “She comes to the Institute with a wealth of relevant experience and a true passion for the work we do across the West. Best of all, she is an adventurer who is not only comfortable in the natural world, but would forsake all else to get there. You have to love that.” Originally from the Southeast, Wendi was drawn to the West in large part by the opportunities to “wander off the map,” to explore new places and new ideas, and to commune with the wilderness.  An avid adventurer, she is often found kayaking and SCUBA diving the oceans, mountain biking and backpacking the mountain ranges, and competing in adventure races and triathlons.   

As the Chief Development Officer of the Sonoran Institute, Wendi is able to merge her personal passions and professional practices into one. “My belief in multi-focused, realistic approaches to solution development is mirrored in the Sonoran Institute’s collaborative, holistic approach to shaping the future of the West,” Wendi says. “I am so fortunate to be able to work alongside people—both employees and supporters of the Institute—whose experience, vision, and passion for the West are truly unmatched.” 

Prior to joining the Sonoran Institute, Wendi was an organizational development consultant and the Executive Director of the Virginia Conflict Resolution Center. Her dynamic career has bridged conservation, law, public health, housing, and higher education. Wendi earned her J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law. She also has a M.A. in Journalism from Marshall University and a B.A. in Communications from Marietta College.

Contact Wendi at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Posted August 2013  


Fred P. Bosselman - headshotFred P. Bosselman - Friend, Mentor and Conservationist

Together with the Chicago-Kent community, the Sonoran Institute was deeply saddened by the recent death of Professor Emeritus Fred Bosselman, a long-serving member of our Board and an extraordinary teacher, colleague and friend. Fred passed away August 4. "Fred was a long-standing champion of the Sonoran Institute. He was a founding board member, counseled us on a wide range of issues, and guided us as we grew into a West-wide, bi-national organization," said John Shepard, senior adviser for the Institute. "Fred was a leading thinker and doer in land-use law, which was not always apparent when I spoke to him about a particular issue. He was so self-effacing. It was only later when I would research the topic that I frequently found that Fred had written the definitive article on that topic."

A scholar and practitioner of energy and environmental law, Fred joined the faculty of Chicago - Kent College of Law in 1991. Earlier, he was a partner in the Chicago law firm of Ross & Hardies and later practiced in Florida with the firm of Burke, Bosselman & Weaver. Fred was a graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School.

Fred was a giant in the area of land use and energy law scholarship. He was co-author of the casebook Energy, Economics and the Environment (Foundation Press 2006) and the books The Role of Customary Law in Sustainable Development (Cambridge University Press 2005) and Managing Tourism Growth (Island Press 1999).  

There is a celebration and memorial planned for Fred on August 25, 2013 in Chicago.  Read more about the work and legacy of Fred Bosselman. Posted August 2013.