Eco-Easements: A Case for Ecosystem-Based Urban Planning

Open Access
Haverstick, Tess Julianne
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Architecture
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Darla Lindberg, Thesis Supervisor
  • Christine Gorby, Honors Advisor
  • ecosystem
  • easements
  • urban planning
  • desert
  • environmental restoration
  • Phoenix
  • Sonoran Desert
  • development
  • urban design
The Sonoran Desert is disappearing. As the second most diverse ecosystem on our planet, the Sonoran Desert plays an important role in floodwater detention, stabilizing water quality, providing homes to thousands of plant and animal species, and regulating the temperature of the planet. Over the years, these crucial natural processes have been disrupted by the encroaching development of Phoenix. Since the advent of air conditioning, the Sonoran Desert has been touted as a luxury, and there are no geographical boundaries in the basin that can keep the ever-spreading lattice of development at bay. This rampant development of the desert ecosystem poses a true global threat. Considering that 43% of the landmass in metropolitan Phoenix is vacant lots, there is much room for a greater density in the city center, which opens up a possibility for the transformation of the outlying areas back into a desert of sorts. To combat the encroachments and preserve these valuable, unprotected lands, my research proposes a set of guidelines for a new way of city-building in the desert.