The Nature Conservancy has helped protect more than 1.5 million acres in Arizona—including six preserves that are open to the public. We are forging new alliances and developing innovative tools to help communities achieve both a healthy environment and a healthy economy.
Wins for Arizona, Wins for Earth
Since 1966, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 1.5 million acres of Arizona lands important to people and wildlife. We’ve harnessed science and partnerships to keep our rivers flowing and our forests and grasslands healthy.
Purchased TNC’s first property in Arizona: the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, which protects three miles of Sonoita Creek in southern Arizona.
During the ’70s, the Conservancy protected some of southern Arizona’s iconic lands and waters, from properties along the San Pedro River to the Phoenix area, where we helped secure Squaw Peak as part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
Worked with the Defenders of Wildlife and the George Whittell Trust to purchase Aravaipa Canyon Preserve. One of the Southwest’s natural wonders, Aravaipa Canyon and the creek running through it cuts a jagged 11-mile gash through the Sonoran Desert uplands.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve is born. Visitors from around the globe travel to this 380-acre preserve to experience its rich bird life, lush gallery of Arizona sycamore trees and moist canyon set in the Huachuca Mountains.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources grants the Conservancy the first in-stream flow water rights permits in the state—at Ramsey and O’Donnell (Canelo Hills Cienega) creeks, meaning that the water can stay in the stream to benefit fish and wildlife.
In the ‘80s, the Conservancy purchased two lands that would become the Muleshoe Ranch and Hassayampa River preserves, and acquired two properties that became national wildlife refuges.
Purchased the Muleshoe Ranch, and signed a Cooperative Management Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service covering the ranch’s 55,000 acres. Muleshoe has some of the finest native fish streams in Arizona.
Purchased three properties along the Verde River to help create the Verde River Greenway, now managed by Arizona State Parks.
Purchased Kartchner Caverns, a subterranean complex of caves, and played a key role by secretly negotiating and providing bridge funding until it could become a state park in 1999.
During this decade, the Conservancy began working with partners to protect working lands and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
Purchased, then protected with a conservation easement, the 321,000-acre Gray Ranch in southwestern New Mexico which pioneered the concept of a grassbank. That preceded the incorporation in 1993 of the Malpai Borderlands Group, one of the first and most successful landowner-led collaborative conservation groups that works with scientists, government agencies and conservation groups, like the Conservancy.
Dick and Jean Wilson donate his family’s homestead to become the Conservancy’s Hart Prairie Preserve, located in the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.
Worked with Arizona State Parks to purchase and protect the 22,000-acre San Rafael Ranch, a scenic southern Arizona grassland where the movie “Oklahoma” was filmed.
The Conservancy took a lead role in passing open space bonds, addressing grassland management of public lands and working on water, forest and river conservation.
Acquired farms along the middle San Pedro River, protected with conservation easements and retired groundwater pumping.
Took a lead role in passing the $174 million open space bond to protect 186,000 acres of high priority Sonoran Desert lands.
With partners, protected five ranch properties along the Babocomari River, an important tributary to the San Pedro River.
This decade saw our work expanding along the Verde River, our ponderosa pine forests and our largest city, Phoenix, to make it greener and more liveable.
Purchased 306 acres of the Shield Ranch along the Verde River, securing its water rights and keeping the land in farming, where we’ve worked with farmers to test low-water-use crops.
With partners, built a first-of-its-kind system to funnel stormwater underground to replenish the aquifer and the San Pedro River, one of the last remaining flowing rivers in the desert Southwest and a critically important wildlife migration corridor.
TNC celebrated 50 years of collaborative conservation in Arizona. TNC’s first project, the purchase of the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, has some of the oldest and tallest Fremont cottonwood trees in the Southwest, and is considered one of the premier bird-watching sites in the United States.
With partners, developed the Verde River Exchange Water Offset Program that allows a surface water user to be compensated for using less water in a given year without giving up the rights to that water in following years.
As a partner in the Cochise Conservation and Recharge Network, ramped up water recharge efforts to capture 1 billion gallons of water and save 1 billion gallons from future pumping. Result: 2 billion gallons yearly to replenish groundwater and add to San Pedro River flows.
Launched the Salt and Verde Alliance, a collaborative effort to allow downstream water users to invest in land and water conservation efforts upstream that improve water quality and quantity.
Launched the Future Forest Project to restore forest health in Arizona’s forests, benefitting communities, clean water and wildlife.
Worked with a Verde Valley farm family to grow a low-water-use-crop—barley—in place of high-water-use crops. Invested in Sinagua Malt to purchase the barley to sell to brewpubs to make a “water-friendly” beer.
Celebrated the Park Central Farm project, in which the Conservancy worked with Hauser and Hauser Farms to purchase and protect 1,000 acres of farmland and open space, and a valuable streamside forest for native fish and wildlife.
Launched the Healthy Cities Initiative to reduce heat and improve livability in one of America’s fastest growing cities: Phoenix.
Led a major Conservancy study which found that large-scale thinning of Arizona’s overgrown forests will lead to increased carbon storage. The quicker the thinning, the more carbon stored.
Worked with Mexico to secure more than 3.5 billion gallons of treated water annually to go to the parched Colorado River Delta estuary, which is now showing signs of a resurgence of plants important to birds.
2020 and beyond
With the new decade, we're expanding our urban program and our clean air/clean energy work while continuing to restore our rivers, lands and forests. This work—so vital to this great state we call home—could not have been possible without our many supporters.
Launched Arizona Thrives with Arizona businesses, utilities and governments aimed at putting Arizona on a path to clean energy, clean air and a clean economy.
…and more to come. Want to see these wins multiply? Join us as a supporter of The Nature Conservancy.
Due to recommended COVID-19 health precautions, access to some of our facilities and preserves is temporarily limited. For agency and partner access, please contact the individual preserve manager.
See the Places We Protect in Your Community
In Arizona, the Conservancy has helped protect more than 1.5 million acres. Included in those acres are 12 preserves, six of which are open to the public.
Volunteer With TNC in Arizona
Volunteers help us do our critically important work while developing lasting friendships and having a lot of fun.
We Can’t Save Nature Without You
Sign up here to receive regular updates from Arizona.