McDowell Sonoran Conservancy to host candidates’ forum on the future of the preserve

June 25, 2008
SCOTTSDALE – The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy (MSC) will sponsor and host a candidates’ forum on the future of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at the Granite Reef Senior Center, 1700 N. Granite Reef Rd., in Scottsdale.

Invitees will include the Scottsdale mayoral candidates and incumbents and contenders for the city council posts up for election. Balloting is scheduled for Sept. 2.
Under the session’s format each of the candidates will make brief introductory remarks on the subject and then answer questions from a panel of news people and other experts on the Preserve and broader land-preservation issues. Questions from the public also will be entertained. Ruthie Carll, MSC’s executive director, will moderate the discussion.

The forum and election come at an important time for the Preserve, Scottsdale’s open-land treasure. A January jury award of $81.9 million to the homebuilder Toll Brothers for 383 acres that had been designated for preservation was larger than many had expected. It raised questions about the city’s ability to purchase the remaining land in the present, 16,000-acre Preserve immediately around the McDowell Mountains, as well as the additional 20,000 state-trust-land acres set aside by the voters to be saved in a tract north of Dynamite Boulevard.

The future of the northern area was put into question by the November, 2006, defeat of Proposition 106, a statewide initiative to reform the way the state sells its 9 million acres of trust land. Without state action enabling municipalities to avoid auction in purchasing trust land they wish to preserve, the land will be hard to acquire, and difficult decisions about its disposition will have to be made. A new initiative has been launched but it remains to be seen if backers can gather enough signatures to get it on this November’s ballot. 

Sponsorship of the forum is in keeping with MSC’s role as advocate for the land-preservation cause in Scottsdale and throughout Arizona. The private, non-profit, non-partisan organization also conducts desert-education programs and is Scottsdale’s partner in maintaining, patrolling and welcoming visitors to the Preserve. Its 250 volunteer stewards annually contribute to the city thousands of work-hours in those functions.