The sandy bed of Sopori Creek stretches east across Southern Arizona toward Amado, ambling through windblown ranchland until it eventually crosses Interstate 19 and empties into the Santa Cruz River on the other side.
On a mostly-cool morning in April, the mesquite bosque flanking the creek has not yet leafed out. These trees will wake soon, following cottonwood giants downstream whose leafy boughs already shade the wash.
Standing on a ridge overlooking the dry creek and nearby farmland, Diana Freshwater, the board president for the Arizona Land and Water Trust, explains that almost 20 years ago this land was destined for development. Plans envisioned homes, a golf course and a resort until Santa Cruz voters halted that idea in 2008.