The Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA) was created as the solution to a problem. If you were to look globally, you would learn that despite tremendous efforts, we have not been very successful at conservation. Species and habitats continue to be lost at astonishing rates and business continues, more or less, as usual.
“We know that, by in large, scientists, policy makers, the general public, the conservation community, planners and land managers are not speaking to each other, and that is a major problem,” says Stacie Beute, Conservation Alliance Program Director. “The Desert Botanical Garden can’t by itself solve these global conservation disconnects, but we knew we could do something about it regionally.”
CAZCA is a coalition of more than 50 organizations working to develop, align and scale efforts to conserve and restore wild and urban natural areas in Maricopa County. The idea of a “conservation task-force” to solve regional conservation challenges started at the Garden in 2010. Around the same time, the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) was collecting data with the aim of learning what Arizona residents valued. The result was The Arizona We Want, a report that identified eight citizen goals, three of which clearly aligned with the Garden’s early ideas for a Conservation Alliance. Those two processes converged when CFA launched a contest of sorts for “Big Ideas” to meet Arizona’s citizen goals. The Garden took the lead to achieve these goals by creating CAZCA.
“The Garden initially wanted to lead this effort to do more to advance conservation beyond the Garden walls and bridge these local gaps between stakeholders,” explains Beute. “The point of CAZCA is to create the space for collaboration. Rather than different entities doing one-off projects, we could be more strategic in the way we do conservation and aim together for greater impacts.”
CAZCA’s work in Arizona’s Mountain Preserves can be defined in 4 key areas:
- Protect and Connect - large and small habitat blocks are conserved and the connections between and among them.
- Sustain and Restore - using best management practices to care for these protected spaces.
- Love and Support – community advocacy developed around the idea that these mountain preserves are integral to the quality of life in Phoenix.
- Create a Community of Practice – generating long-term tools and mechanism that can ensure the continuation of conservation collaboration.
Since inception, CAZCA has made major accomplishments:
- Created a regional culture of collaboration. The individuals who work in this space have developed strong, trusting relationships.
- Developed a Regional Open Spaces Conservation Strategy for Maricopa County with 30 organizations.
- Managed and operates five Citizen Science projects and trained more than 130 citizen scientists.
- Hosted more than 30 Conservation Service Days to restore and enhance parks and preserves.
- Created a “Community of Practice” and built conservation capacity through knowledge-sharing, trainings and workshops, and networking opportunities.
- Completed numerous research studies to inform land management.
Over the next couple of years, CAZCA will focus its energy on implementing the regional conservation strategy it created.
“Ultimately, to be successful, we will need to develop serious political champions and generate a real appreciation for the value of open spaces in the business and political communities. If the future is good, we will put ourselves out of business,” says Beute.
Individuals interested in getting involved can participate in a number of ways:
- Conservation Service Days - eight to 10 service days a year focused on education and participation in restoration and clean-up projects.
- Citizen Science Projects – engage in real research with highly esteemed scientists while learning about the biology of the landscape.
- Community of Practice Speaker Series – opportunity to learn about relevant and exciting conservation topics.
- Attend the first ever Desert Botanical Garden luncheon to benefit the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance on February 9. Enjoy lunch and featured speaker J. Nichols, renowned conservation scientist and activist. Learn more.