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CAVE CREEK/CAREFREE – At their Annual Meeting on Jan. 27, Desert Foothills Land Trust presented State Land Commissioner Maria Baier with their highest honor, the Desert Tortoise Award, given for sustained commitment to land conservation. Maria Baier was appointed Land Commissioner by Governor Jan Brewer in June 2009. She is responsible for managing millions of acres of State Trust Land across the state and is working with a diverse group of stakeholders on State Trust Land reform initiatives.

Baier has been a long-time friend of the Land Trust. In her role on Governor Fife Symington’s staff, Baier worked to help secure the Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) legislation and its funding source, the $220 million Growing Smarter Grants Program, which have made many subsequent State Trust Land conservation projects possible. Baier also spoke at the dedication for one of the Land Trust’s most significant preserves, P.A. Seitts at Go John Canyon. That preserve was purchased from the State Land Department through the API, and was named in memory of Baier’s friend, API advocate and former Land Trust executive director P.A. Seitts.

Baier also spoke about the status of State Trust Land reform efforts at the meeting, commenting “the management of State Trust Land needs to change to allow more flexibility.
It would benefit from being allowed those things that developers and planners have available to them: the use of right of way, easements, school designations, and land planning.” She also noted that her department had not been as badly affected by the State budget as some others, as it is effectively “a business within State government.”

At their meeting, Board and staff members from Desert Foothills Land Trust also reported on significant achievements in fiscal year 2009, including protection of the 80-acre Sierra Vista Sanctuary and their merger with the Black Mountain Conservancy. Representatives also reported on major goals and objectives for 2010, particularly their ongoing work with the Town of Cave Creek to acquire and protect approximately 4,000 acres of State Trust lands.

(l-r) Stacy Fischer (DFLT Conservation Director), Maria Baier (Arizona State Land Commissioner), Sue Clement (DFLT President), and Sonia Perillo (DFLT Executive Director). Photo by Vickilyn Hussey