UA Arid Lands History

As a land-grant institution located in Arizona, arid land use and management has been a key element of the University of Arizona (UA) mission from its founding in 1885. Almost 60 years ago, in response to increasing world-wide interest in arid land development, the UA created an interdisciplinary Committee on Arid Lands Studies to harness the diversity in experience that existed across campus to deal with the problems associated with arid lands. In 1964, this informal group’s success led to the Office of Arid Lands Studies being established as an organized, interdisciplinary research unit to characterize the world’s arid lands. To address growing academic interest in this general area, the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Arid Lands Resource Sciences was established in 1968.

The arid lands community at the UA includes both students and researchers and has always been large, diverse, and active. Over the past decade, the institutional focus for the community has dissipated due to faculty and student departure, budget cuts, and administrative reorganization, yet there are still many faculty and students who have concentrated their energies and attention on arid lands in Arizona and comparable regions worldwide.

Above: an image of "Old Main" (photo courtesy: UA Libraries). Jacob S. Mansfield convinced E.B. Gifford, Ben C. Parker and William S. Reed to donate 40 acres east of Tucson to the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). At the November 27, 1886 ABOR meeting, they took a recess to go inspect the barren land with the gorgeous view. They accepted the land and now there was a place for the dream to take shape.