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Earth Notes: Central Arizona Land Trust

Garry Rogers

This year a Prescott-based group marks three decades of work protecting some of Arizona’s last best places. On its 30th anniversary, the Central Arizona Land Trust is on the cusp of saving even more open space, ranchland, and streamside habitat.

The nonprofit started in 1989 when a housing development was planned on the face of iconic Thumb Butte in Prescott. The parcels were saved and put into open space, and the trust was off and running. It now works across six counties in central and northern Arizona.

The conservation easement is the trust’s primary tool. Private land owners voluntarily negotiate easements, allowing their land to remain either as a working ranch or farm or as public open space in perpetuity. Under these agreements, the land stays on the public tax rolls while being protected forever from development. And importantly in a dry place like Arizona, water resources are tied to the easement.

One water source of particular interest is the Agua Fria River with headwaters near Prescott. Agua Fria means “cold water,” and the Coldwater Farm—appropriately named—sits beside the river. It is a keystone property for the land trust. The landowner is generously donating the conservation easement that will eliminate all future development rights on twenty acres.

The riverside farm enjoys perennial flow—what westerners call “live water.” The water nourishes a cottonwood-willow forest that’s home to two rare birds—the southwestern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo. The Central Arizona Land Trust has launched “It’s For the Birds” campaign to establish the easement.

Success will protect not just the land, but all the living things that come with it.

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