Letter from the Executive Director

The West has always been defined by its lands—wide­open spaces, agriculture, scenic views, wild rivers—and by the people who care about these special places. At the Sonoran Institute, we promote community decisions that respect the land and people of western North America.

Unprecedented population growth is altering the West’s demographics and economic landscape, increasing the rate of land development, and elevating demands for water and energy. Global climate change will likely prolong the region’s ongoing drought and accelerate the loss of wildlife habitat. Expansive wild lands, scenery and open spaces offer an important competitive advantage in the West’s changing and globalizing economy. We must act now to create and sustain a quality of life that is, as the author Wallace Stegner wrote, as magnificent as the scenery that surrounds us.

Despite the challenges, we are optimistic that a collaborative approach and civil dialogue can protect and enhance the West’s natural and cultural assets, its prosperity and its vibrant communities. The Sonoran Institute has identified four opportunities to advance our mission in response to current trends. ­

Regional and collaborative planning

Increasingly, ecosystem science tells us that effective conservation must be designed and carried out at a large­scale level. The widespread impacts of growth and global climate change require improved cooperation among jurisdictions, landowners and government agencies. With our collaborative orientation to land­use issues, the Sonoran Institute is uniquely positioned to play a constructive role in fostering regional planning efforts. ­ New tools to help decision makers and the public Information and new resources are critical for improving growth management policies. They increase our ability to document and explain trends and to forecast and assess future scenarios. The Sonoran Institute develops new ways to understand the impacts of growth, energy development and climate changes, particularly how land­use decisions that manage growth and protect natural areas can mitigate those impacts and produce significant economic and environmental benefits. ­

Broad­based participation and effective leadership

The Sonoran Institute brings diverse people together to discuss their community’s needs and vision for the future. Increased concerns about growth and global climate change inspire people to take actions they feel will preserve their quality of life. By electing officials and community leaders to be effective advocates, communities can encourage and implement new solutions for local and regional challenges. ­

Improve the outcomes from institutions and agencies

Institutions and agencies must respond to growth and global climate change challenges. Most local jurisdictions and agencies do not have the authority or resources to grapple with issues that cut across multiple jurisdictions, so they will have to work collaboratively to effectively respond. Similarly, land management agencies will require significant reforms to their missions, programs, and institutional culture to address threats that cross or lie outside their boundaries. We encourage and inform efforts to get better decision­making tools and resources to institutions and agencies.

The decisions we make for managing our land, water, and energy resources to accommodate population growth will 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 which assets they will expend and which they will protect and conserve.

We encourage your involvement in these efforts and your support for the programs and projects of the Sonoran Institute.