Today, the Desert Botanical Garden hosted its first ever Conserving the Preserves Luncheon and presented the inaugural Desert Botanical Garden Award for Vision and Leadership in Conservation. The luncheon was developed to benefit the Garden’s Central Arizona Conservation Alliance program and its efforts to protect, restore and enhance Sonoran Desert open space, parks and preserves.  

Renowned scientist and wild-nature advocate Dr. Wallace J. Nichols kicked off the Luncheon with a talk that sparked conversation about the greatest love story ever told – our love of the natural world. As a graduate of the University of Arizona, Nichols strong ties to the Sonoran Desert guided his talk focused on how experiencing and connection with the beauty, wonder and inspiration of the Sonoran Desert transforms our lives – making us happier, healthier and better at what we do. 

“Watching a desert sunset, watching a hummingbird set on a cactus, this access to nature is so important and we can facilitate that access from the beginning to the end of life. That to me is the strength of this Conservation Alliance, the strength of the institution - it is the birthplace of awe and wonder for thousands and thousands of people since the 1930s. The ecological, the education, the economic and the emotional, do not shy away from the emotional. Dig into the science if you need it. The science is clear. Nature is life and nature makes life worth living,” says Dr. Wallace. 

Conservation of the Sonoran Desert was the catalyst for creating the Garden in 1939. The foresight the Garden’s founders had to develop the land and mission of Desert Botanical Garden was visionary. Referencing a Greek proverb, Gertrude Webster, at the ground breaking of the Garden in 1939, said “the true meaning of life is to plant a tree under whose shade you will never sit.” It is the spirit of our founders and in recognition that spirit lives and breathes throughout our communities today that we introduced the Desert Botanical Garden Award for Vision and Leadership in Conservation.

“This award is a way to celebrate somebody truly visionary in the conservation space. We look for an individual who is innovative, impactful and forward-thinking in the spirit of the Garden’s founders who were thinking 75 to 100 years ahead,” says Stacie Beute, Conservation Alliance program director.

The inaugural Award was presented to Mayor Jackie Meck of the City of Buckeye. Mayor Meck has worked for 20 years to secure open space in his community (now Skyline Regional Park) and had a vision for a conservation trust to protect the ecosystems, biodiversity and way of life in the West Valley where much of the Valley’s population growth is expected in the next 25 years. 

“Mayor Meck has a deep and personal connection to the land in Buckeye, Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. He is a true leader in that he works not just for the here and now, but also looks to the future of his city and its people knowing that their well-being is intimately entwined with the well-being of the land and its nature,” said Dr. Kimberlie McCue, Assistant Director of Research, Conservation and Collections.

Thank you to all attendees who joined the Garden to celebrate the importance of conservation and a special thank you to Anne Stupp for chairing the event. 

The Conserving the Preserves Luncheon was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona with support from event benefactors, the Sam & Betty Kitchell Family. Legacy program support has been provided by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

Check out our Instagram story for an inside look at the event, www.instagram.com/desertbotanical/.