A comedian—like Sinbad or David Spade—occasionally passes through. But Phoenicians seldom get to see movie star icons. Saturday night, September 7, there was a lot of oohing going on, as Robert Redford appeared at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix to support the Raise the River Campaign. Over 200 community, non-profit and business leaders were invited to hear about one of the largest environmental restoration projects in history.
Water has been as coveted in the Southwest, as oil has been in the Gulf. Water from the Colorado River has been so over-allocated that the Colorado River Delta, a dry, dusty 3000 acres of land, has separated the headwaters of the Colorado from the Gulf of Mexico since 1960. As Jamie Redford, Redford’s son, who is a filmmaker and environmentalist, explained, this is a rare environmental problem that can actually be resolved…with money. The goal is to raise $10 million, which would be used to purchase water rights and restore the watershed.
The Sonoran Institute, which promotes healthy landscapes, livable communities and vibrant economies, is one of the leading partners of the Raise the River. Maria Baier, who is admired for her previous accomplishments as the Arizona Land Commissioner, and a Phoenix councilperson, recently became its CEO.
In an era, when the media focuses on conflicts between Anglos and Hispanics, Baier described the collaboration and new agreement between the US and Mexico, which was represented by speakers like Gaston Luken (Mesa Directiva, ProNatura Noroeste, AC). Other speakers and agencies included Phoenix Mayor Stanton, Anne Castle (Department of Interior), Roberto Salmon (Comisión Internacional des Limites y Aguas), The Nature Conservancy, Hunter, Park & Co. and the Environmental Defense Fund. Diners were even treated to a meal featuring a low-water use menu.
Robert Redford, whose Redford Center, is a campaign partner, was the guest of honor. It was hard for boomers in the audience to believe that Redford is now 77. As charismatic and articulate as ever, he clearly advocated the three steps—awareness, solution and action—necessary to achieve the goals of the campaign. Like his son, he stressed how doable this project is.
The Terra Foundation created a $1 million challenge grant; they will match contributions on a 1:1 basis made to the Colorado River Delta Water Trust, up to $333,000 a year for three years. Donations can be made to the Trust through the Sonoran Institute.