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for people who care about the West

'We need a whole paradigm shift'

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

In 1990, the McDowell-Sonoran Land Trust was founded to protect a 36,000-acre, billion-dollar chunk of private and state land near the affluent community of Scottsdale, Ariz. "We realized we weren't going to raise that money selling T-shirts, so we went to the city," says executive director and 35-year Scottsdale resident Carla, who uses only her first name. After a two-year push by the land trust, residents passed a sales tax increase, and the city has since used the money to purchase about 14,400 acres of private land within the planned preserve. The land trust doesn't own the property. It helps the city negotiate deals and manage the preserve.

Carla: "Since there are so many people moving here, we have to keep up our presence. Their intent is good, they want to love this land - that's why they came here. But we're afraid the reasons for preservation will be forgotten.

"Open space is not what's left over after development. It should be the logical framework for development, around which you do build appropriately. It does no good to protect one or two islands of nature. We find ourselves at loggerheads with folks who say, "if you just build low-density housing, isn't that enough?" No, that's lifestyle preservation, not land preservation. We need a whole paradigm shift in thinking.

"We're only 40 percent done (with the preserve), so we still have a lot to do. Of the remaining 60 percent, 16,600 acres are state land. Right now, state trust lands have to be auctioned to the highest bidder. If you have to maximize revenue on all this land, even a community as fortunate as Scottsdale cannot afford it. We have to change the constitution; it's an absolutely critical thing. There are 9.3 million acres of state trust land (in Arizona). Come on - couldn't some of it be set aside as open space?"