2014 Annual Report


25 Years Strong, Shaping Our West

For over 25 years, Sonoran Institute has been a pioneer in efforts to unite and celebrate the best of Western culture, history, nature and urban spaces by making connections, seeking practical solutions and promoting long-term sustainability. View and download our 2014 Annual Report to see all that we've done up through 2014 and what we plan on doing as we move forward.

2040 Vision

  Stategic Framework Cover

Strategic Framework

For the last 25 years, we have been successfully helping people in the West build the communities they want to live in while preserving the West that brought them here. Discover our vision for our next 25 years. 

Our Letter to You

Read our 2040 Vision 

Contacts - Sonoran Desert Heritage

Ian Dowdy
Sun Corridor Legacy Program
Program Director

602-393-4310 ext. 308

Media - Sonoran Desert Heritage

April 29, 2013 - Bill to Benefit AZ Wildlife, Military radio story on Public News Service

Public news service image photo credit City of Goodyear

August 2012 - Ted Simons of Arizona Horizon Interviews Ian Dowdy on the Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal.

IanHorizon SDH


January 2012 - Read Phoenix Magazine's article - Defending the Desert

Check out this Sonoran Desert Heritage video narrated by Marshall Trimble.


Home Where We Work Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage

Sonoran Desert Heritage

The Sonoran Institute has been involved in western Maricopa County conservation efforts since 2007 and in partnership with Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Arizona Wildlife Federation, and The Wilderness Society has developed the Sonoran Desert Heritage (SDH) campaign. The goal of the SDH campaign is to build upon the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 in western Maricopa County by permanently protecting Arizona's Sonoran Desert, which teems with natural, cultural, recreation, and economic benefits. 

The Sonoran Desert Heritage campaign seeks:
  • Designation of two new National Conservation Areas (NCAs)
  • Protection of new wilderness areas within the Sonoran Desert National Monument
  • Creation of new Special Management Areas

National Conservation Areasdesert_flower_white

Belmont-Harquahala Mountains proposed National Conservation Area encompasses three existing wilderness areas: Harquahala Mountains, Hummingbird Springs, and Big Horn Mountains. Also included in this proposed NCA are several new wilderness areas including, Harquahala Mountains Addition, Hummingbird Springs Addition, Hummingbird Plain, Belmont Mountains East, and Belmont Mountains West. When complete, this proposed NCA will protect 300,500 acres of vital wildlife corridors, stunning landscapes, rare ecosystems, and botanical diversity while increasing the value of adjacent lands and continuing to allow the activities recreational users have long enjoyed.

Gila Bend Mountains proposed National Conservation Area encompasses the existing Signal Mountain and Woolsey Peak wilderness areas and seeks to add an additional nine wilderness areas. Those areas are: Columbus Peak, Cortez Peak, Dixie Peak, East Clanton Hills, Face Mountain, Red Rock Canyon, Saddle Mountain, Woolsey Peak Additions, and  Yellow Medicine Butte. The NCA will total 546,600 acres of land that is home to significant Sonoran Desert wildlife and amazingly adaptive plants given the high temperatures and minimal rainfall.

Sonoran Desert National Monument

cresote_bushThe addition of new wilderness areas within the existing Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM) is a central component to the Sonoran Desert Heritage campaign. The proposed Butterfield Stage Memorial wilderness area would protect cultural objects and ecological values in the monument area while still providing public access. Margie's Peak proposed wilderness area would add 14,700 acres to the SDNM and protect native Sonoran desert plant communities and help sustain viable populations of sensitive wildlife such as bighorn sheep and Sonoran desert tortoise. Sand Tank Mountains proposed area consists of Sand Tanks East and Sand Tanks West – a total of 106,300 acres. Situated about seven miles southeast of Gila Bend, the Sand Tanks are one of the remaining crown jewels of the Sonoran Desert. Wilderness designation offers long term protection for both wildlife and recreation opportunities in this area while minimizing the footprint of motorized use.

Special Management Areas

Congress can designate an area as a Special Management Area (SMA) to ensure that it remains in public ownership to protect prominent and valuable scenic, recreation, or wildlife resources. Generally, lands within an SMA are not subject to specific federal public land laws and are managed to protect the identified resources and minimize user conflicts. The Sonoran Desert Heritage campaign aims to add the following two areas as SMAs: Hieroglyphic Mountains and Rainbow Valley Wildlife Linkage.

Visit the Sonoran Desert Heritage website which features the most up-to-date proposal areas and acreages, an interactive map, and the opportunity to get involved in the process.

News & Updates

HR 1799

April 26, 2013 - Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Dist. 3) has introduced HR 1799, which seeks to preserve critical tracts west of Phoenix that serve as important wildlife and recreation areas, safeguard the viability of Luke Air Force Base and the Barry M. Goldwater Range, and protect environmental amenities to boost economic opportunities for West Valley communities. Download HR 1799.

Increased Protection of Lands near Arizona's Military Facilities

April 24, 2013 - A new report by the Sonoran Institute and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition analyzes the critical relationship between land use and military installations in western Maricopa County and how conservation can help sustain Arizona's $9 billion military industry. Read the press release. Download the report: Strategies to Protect Arizona's $9 Billion Military Economy

Defending the Desert

December, 2011 - A groundbreaking coalition aims to preserve acres of wild Valley land and and the plentiful wildlife, tourism and heritage it supports.  Read the Phoenix Magazine article here.

Coalition Seeks to Preserve Desert

May 26, 2011 - A broad coalition announced a proposal to protect approximately 700,000 acres of public land in western Maricopa County. Read the Arizona Republic article.

Campaign Kick-Off

May 25, 2011 - Sonoran Institute and partners hosted the kick-off of the Sonoran Desert Heritage campaign at the Wigwam Resort. Marshall Trimble, Official Arizona State Historian, was on hand as an honored guest. Read the press release.

Read more: News & Updates