The Phoenix metro area is now so large spatially that it is referred to as the Sun Corridor Megaregion—a sprawling area of 5.6 million residents (on the way to more than 7 million by 2025), extending from south of Tucson and well to the north of the City of Phoenix. In many ways Phoenix has become the iconic unsustainable city and metro area—as the new book Bird on Fire, argues (with a subtitle: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City). Yet, for all the legitimate concern about the unsustainable nature of its resource consumption patterns and failure to harvest the natural bounty of the sun, there is a remarkable degree of nature nearby and available to residents. And there is an impressive urban desert conservation movement and heritage in this city, dating back to the 1960’s and protection of Camelback Mountain. The City of Scottsdale has further pushed the envelope, securing some 17,000 acres of natural desert—ultimately making up some one-third of the city’s land area — as part of its McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and shepherded over by the volunteer-run McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. There are many physical and cultural challenges for Phoenix areas residents to overcome in connecting with this immense nature—extremely high summer temperatures, for instance, that discourage outside activity, at least for much of the day. But despite the obstacles, there are remarkable stories of abundant nature and some exemplary efforts to preserve and enjoy the region’s beautiful and bio-diverse desert ecosystems.

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