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The city's official history of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, by Joan C. Fudala.

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garden250In 1990, Scottsdale citizens (through the non-profit McDowell Sonoran Land Trust - today called the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy) initiated the preservation of Scottsdale's McDowell Mountains and Sonoran Desert. The vision is to preserve approximately 36,400 acres, equivalent to 1/3 of Scottsdale's total land area. This area is referred to as the  Recommended Study Boundary for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve (RSB) (pdf/2912kb/1pg)

When land in the RSB is acquired by Scottsdale, it becomes part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  The Preserve will consist of mountains, Sonoran Desert, and natural corridors linking to natural open space in adjacent  communities and to the Tonto National Forest and the Maricopa County Regional Park.  The vision is to create a large sustainable natural desert habitat for wildlife and desert flora, available for appropriate passive recreation public use. 

In 1995, Scottsdale voters approved a .2% tax increase to purchase land in the 16,460 acre original RSB (pdf/1363kb/1pg).  In 1998, voters approved using the sales tax to purchase land in the 19,940 acre expanded RSB (pdf/2124kb/1pg).

A total of 19,643 acres in the RSB is State Trust Land. In 1998 all of the State Trust Land in the original boundary- 2,762 acres, and 317 acres adjacent to the County Regional Park (submitted by the County at the request of Scottsdale) was, reclassified as suitable for conservation under the Arizona Preserve Initiative (API). In 2001, 13,021 acres of State Trust Land in the expanded boundary were reclassified as suitable for conservation under the API.

In 2004, Scottsdale voters approved an additional .15% increase in the sales tax for land acquisition and for access area amenities.  When completed, Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve will be one of the largest urban preserves.  Scottsdale's Preserve will be larger than Tempe and Paradise Valley combined.

Land desired for Scottsdale's Preserve was  identified based upon: 
  1. Access potential
  2. Unique geological, historical and archaeological features
  3. Ecosystem and wildlife habitat
  4. Scenic quality
  5. The potential for appropriate passive public use (i.e. hiking, biking, rock climbing, equestrian)
  6. Corridors connecting natural open space areas
mortars The objective is that land in Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve be preserved in as pristine of a state as possible as this generation's legacy to those that follow while providing appropriate passive recreational use opportunities so all can enjoy and experience the splendor of Scottsdale's Preserve.

The importance of saving these lands is underscored by Arizona Game and Fish, which considers the McDowell Mountains the most significant wildlife habitat in the valley outside the Tonto National Forest.