Meeting Arizona’s Ecological Needs Through Public and Private Partnerships

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By Hamik Sebkarshad

Public and private partnerships have served as a magnificent option to fund projects that normally would not get off the ground without a unique combination of forces. These partnerships combine government entities with private companies, as well as groups of generous volunteers, in order to complete important social projects. Here in Arizona, there are several public-private partnerships that are in operation and have achieved great success in the areas of ecosystem protection and sustainability.

NORTHERN: Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project

The protection of the Coconino National Forest is one example of a phenomenal public-private partnership initiative that is protecting sensitive forest areas from fires and the possibility of flooding. Located north of Flagstaff by the Dry Lake Hills and south of Lake Mary, the project cleans, protects and restores the area, essentially producing a firewall that saves the natural ecosystem from fires or flooding. The hilly area contains much natural vegetation, and the steepness of the slopes increases the possibility of forest fires. The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project, which began around a decade ago, has restored hundreds of thousands of acres of Flagstaff ecosystems.

CENTRAL: Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department

Maricopa County Parks and Recreation are also no stranger to public-private partnerships, with private partners contributing about 20 percent to Maricopa’s park system operating budget. These private partners also handle approximately 24 percent of the Park’s annual 2.1 million visitors. RJ Cardin, director of the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, said public-private partnerships help supplement their operating budget and, subsequently, enable them to offer recreation facilities and services that they could not otherwise provide. Cardin said they look to private providers to not only provide service but also to invest in the parks by putting in capital development, which benefits residents and visitors through additional amenities and in turn generates revenue to be used for other programs and services.

SOUTHERN: University of Arizona Compost Cats

The “Compost Cats,” a Students for Sustainability organization at the University of FC #136 Compost 20160204_083834Arizona, are a team of students and non-students working together to ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions through composting. The Cats work with private restaurants and food retailers such as Bashas’ and Food City, which donate expired or unsalable foods. The food is picked up by the City and taken to the Tohono O’odham reservation to be composted by the awaiting Compost Cats. The compost material can subsequently have landscaping and agricultural uses. Now in their fourth year, the Cats were named the official composting service for the City of Tucson in 2015.

Public-private partnerships in Arizona, which only became legalized recently in 2009, are continuing to move forward by procuring agreements with both citizens and sustainability in mind.


Hamik Sebkarshad is a local freelance writer and avid sports fan. In his spare time he enjoys reading and spending time with his pets.

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