Just five short years ago, we celebrated the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s 25th Birthday. As a part of that celebration, we remembered some of the most significant things that happened in each of our first 25 years.

We are now approaching our 30th Birthday, and we are taking this opportunity to reflect again on our past achievements, important moments, and dear memories that rise to the surface amongst hundreds, if not thousands, of individual moments for individual people.

With reflection, gratitude inevitably comes, and we are truly grateful for nearly 30 years with each of you.

Originally published in the 25th Anniversary Edition (Spring 2016) of Mountain Lines, our quarterly magazine of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.

2014: Conservancy and Pioneer Recognized

On Saturday, March 22, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and the City of Scottsdale held a public celebration to dedicate the Jane Rau Interpretive Trail at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Mayor Jim Lane spoke about Jane’s persistence to preserve the land for this and future generations and Conservancy Executive Director Mike Nolan spoke about Jane’s unending energy and passion for the Sonoran Desert. The trail was the second barrier-free Preserve trail designed for those with mobility challenges

Jane Rau, one of the original founders of the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust and longtime steward, spoke to the hundreds attending. After cutting the ceremonial ribbon to launch the new trail, the ninety-one-year-old led those who were able on a hike along her trail.

2014 marked a pivotal point for the Field Institute when the Conservancy published the Flora and Fauna of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve with the results of the Field Institute’s three-year baseline ecological study. It presented the detailed work conducted over several years by the Field Institute, and documents the flora and fauna of the Preserve. The study provides the baseline information that will be used for conservation and management for years to come, and reinforces the partnership between the Conservancy and the City of Scottsdale. The Conservancy uses the data gathered to assist the City in its management of the Preserve, and shares the data with scientists seeking information about a variety of natural resources.

In 2014, the Conservancy also won the Crescordia Award. This prestigious award recognizes exceptional work in environmental education and communication. The award specifically cited the McDowell Sonoran Field Institute and its citizen-scientist efforts.

2015: Stewardship and Research Expand

The Conservancy recognized the need for additional stewards to support the growing interest in the Preserve. In response to the growing acreage of the Preserve, the Conservancy expanded its steward cadre to nearly 600 Stewards. By the end of 2015, the Conservancy conducted its 55th New Steward Orientation class. The curriculum now included one eight-hour orientation and 12 hours of continuing education classes throughout the year. The Steward Education program held seven orientations that year.

In 2015, Stewards recorded an amazing total of 56,215.80 hours of dedicated service in 11 programs valued at nearly $1.3 million.

In 2015, the Conservancy Field Institute completed the Ecological Resource Plan. This plan articulates the long-term vision for the Preserve and plots a course to get there. The Field Institute also had its fourth peer-reviewed paper published. The paper describes the findings of its reptile and amphibian study.

In October, the Field Institute held its first research symposium at Scottsdale Community College in partnership with the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife (CNUW). The purpose of the symposium was to bring together researchers, students, citizens, and community leaders to share and learn about the research conducted within the Preserve. It featured speakers, poster presentations, tours of CNUW facilities, workshops, and guided hikes in the Preserve. Topics included research conducted on flora, fauna, geology, and human history of the Preserve, and a discussion about the future of conservation in the Phoenix area. The panel consisted of representatives from the City of Scottsdale, the City of Phoenix, the Sonoran Institute, and Maricopa County Parks. Keynote speakers were Virginia Korte, CNUW’s first director and a current Scottsdale city council member, and Dr. Sharon Hall, associate professor and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University.

Attendees included over 60 stewards, professors and students from ASU and Scottsdale Community College, representatives from non-profits such as the Desert Botanical Garden, and members of the Scottsdale City Council. The symposium resulted in new partnerships and research ideas that will directly benefit the Preserve and the Phoenix area.