Written By: Perin McNelis
The BRN Native Plant Material Program just wrapped up it’s second year participating in the annual Agave Heritage Festival in Tucson! The festival expanded this year to be “a city-wide, ten-day destination event that spotlights the southwest region through the lens of the agave plant.” BRN’s Native Plant Materials Program co-manager, Francesca Claverie, and our collaborator from the Collectivo Sonora Silvestre, Valeria Cañedo, presented along-side agave spirit producers and conservationists at Exo Bar on our Agaves for Bats Initiative through Bat Conservation International. The event was well attended and the the presentation was received with interest and enthusiasm for our bi-national conservation efforts in conjunction with celebration of agave based products and their cultural importance. Francesca presented again at the Agave Expo event at Hotel Congress, where the BRN Native Plant Materials team also had a table with educational materials, Agave palmeri plants and seedballs, and our new t-shirts, designed by friend of BRN, Mike Otero (available online here). The team met many agave spirit producers and conservationists working in Mexico, including biologist David Suro, who showed sincere interest in potential future collaborations with BRN. All in all, the festival was a great success! These kinds of outreach opportunities are imperative to educating our communities about the work we do in the borderlands, and to spreading awareness of the varied impacts human actions have on our landscapes so that we can garner support for restoration work and so that people can learn about what kind of actions they can take in their daily lives to support ecosystem health. We look forward to participating again next year!
Written By: Perin McNelis
The BRN Native Plant Materials Program is lucky to have consistent help from a robust group of enthusiastic volunteers. In this post, we would like to highlight one of our die-hard volunteers, John Hughes. John has come to our Tuesday volunteer mornings since 2014 to transplant, propagate, take cuttings, weed, or any other task that comes up. And he does so with such care and an eagerness to get his hands in the dirt! A retired middle school science teacher and avid birder, John spent many winters in Patagonia with his wife, Kathy, returning to Montana each year from April until Fall. Luckily for us, John and Kathy fell in love with Patagonia and decided to move here full time! They sold their house in Montana and are now in the process of building their home in Patagonia. John’s love and knowledge of the natural world, along with positive attitude, make him a wonderful part of the team.
John is also a dedicated volunteer for the Tucson Audubon Society at the Paton Center, the Friends of Sonoita Creek, and the Dirt Bags trail crew. BRN is so impressed with John’s commitment to local restoration efforts and we are grateful to have John in Patagonia, working hard with the community to restore and maintain the health of our beautiful home landscape. Thank you John for all you do!
By: Alyssa Navarrette-Cazares
Borderlands Restoration is growing nearly 2,000 agave in our nursery here in Patagonia, Arizona, for a collaboration with Bat Conservation International to spread thousands of these plants to support migratory pathways of nectar-feeding bats in southern Arizona. Nectar-feeding bats, specifically the Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris Mexicana) and lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris-Curasoae), migrate north from Mexico in the summer to roost and rear their young in caves of northern Sonora, Chihuaua, Arizona, and New Mexico.
We need your help to create an environment that can help salvage this ancient relationship between bats and agave. Very much like a bee and flower relationship, without bats, there are no agave and without agave, there are no bats. These bats made the endangered species list in the 1980's. When agaves are farmed for mescal, the plant is harvested before bloom; these same practices are used in wild-harvesting, and as demand for tequila, bacanora, and other mescals increases in the United States, significant pressure is placed on wild populations of agave - and so too, wild bat populations are under pressure.
Uniquely, we work with only seed grown plants for our restoration practices to promote the healthiest wild restored populations. Traditionally farmers use pups or clones of the agave; pups are more susceptible to disease and fungus that can easily spread to other pups and agave in a farm.
We are hoping this collaboration of conservationists and enthusiasts will bring wild agaves and bats back to healthy population numbers. With your donation of $15.00 for one agave or $50.00 for four agaves planted in the U.S., we can help bring back healthy patches of agave making it possible for bats to continue on their migratory voyage.
We are thrilled to be working with Naturalia a.c. & Cuenta Los Ojos to propagate plants in Mexico. The Colectivo Sonora Silvestre is another critical partner assisting in the propagation of these plants from seed. You can support these practices by donating $10.00 for one agave or $50.00 for six agaves planted in Mexico.
Borderlands Restoration Networks Nursery in Patagonia, AZ
Photo credit: usfws of the Lesser Long Nosed Bat feeding on a saguaro Blossom
Borderlands Restoration Network is a Proud Participant in Patagonia’s EARTHfest 2019
‘Youth are the Future’ EARTHfest 2019 went off without a hitch this past Saturday. Collaboratively organized by the Patagonia Museum and Borderlands Restoration Network, we enjoyed a sunny day accompanied by a variety of engaging activities. Four different musical groups joined us at the gazebo for boogey-worthy music. Educational talks were given at Cady Hall and Town Hall that spanned topics from tree ring studies to water in the Patagonia Mountains. Booths shared information on Sonoita Creek, electricity and the Arizona Trail. Many lucky folks walked away with science and nature themed books provided by the Patagonia Library and native plants from Borderlands Restoration. Kids were spotted throughout the day with painted faces, flying colorful kites, doing kids yoga and walking along the new Patagonia Story Walk, featuring The Three Little Javelinas, put on by the library. All the while, attendees were fueled by delicious burritos and BBQ.
We had a record number of attendees this year as over 200 people gathered in Patagonia to celebrate Mother Earth, Arizona Trails Day, and Arbor Day, and we hope that this number will only continue to climb in the upcoming years. The EARTHfest committee is always open to new ideas, new booths, and new ways to show appreciation for this planet we call home. As well, we invite any interested community members to join the planning committee.
EARTHfest 2019 was a joyful celebration of Mother Earth, made even better by the many community members who came out to share information, experiences, and resources with our local youth helping to inspire the next generation of land stewards.
BRN's Native Plant Material Program was very happy to host Carla Vargas-Frank of Yerba Nomadica for an herbalism workshop on April 6th! The workshop focused on Spring in the Sky Islands, and how plant medicine can be used to support our bodies' natural cleansing systems during this time when some themes from the seasonal transition we see in nature are mirrored in our bodies. Participants tasted different plant medicines for activating the lymphatic system, digestion, and circulation to encourage movement, clearing out and breaking up of the stagnation of Winter. We learned about some plant genera that are useful medicines during allergy season and that we have species native to the Sky Islands, including Ceanothus, Solidago, Ambrosia, Achillea, and Anemopsis. Finally, we learned about the importance of tasting bitter flavors in stimulating some of the systems that help us transition our bodies into the warmer months. Then we made some bitters of our own! BRN is really excited about this new collaboration, and the Native Plant Materials Program is looking forward to working with her to offer more herbalism workshops during the annual Field School and in September. Keep your eyes peeled for details of future offerings with BRN and Yerba Nomadica!
Borderlands Restoration Network is grateful for the generous and early backing of the Biophilia Foundation. Their ongoing support allows BRN to run our innovative programs such as the field school, as well as our community engagement programs like our monthly nature walks and our Arts & Ecology Initiative. Through the support of Biophilia, staff at BRN has been able to increase our engagement with different parts of the community to explore our unique Sky Island ecology and our various roles in our ecosystem.
Due to the early support of the Biophilia Foundation, we are preparing for our third BRN Field School with over 30 experts presenting about their ecological and cultural work in the restoration economy in the Arizona-Borderlands. Our Arts & Ecology Initiative has grown from a few classes within our Borderlands Earth Care Youth Institute and the Field School into its own curriculum with classes developed to engage local youth in learning about their role in the local ecology.
BRN is proud to have the support of the Biophilia Foundation as we work with our partners to expand a vibrant restoration economy in the Arizona – Sonora borderlands through ecological and cultural place-based learning and leadership with on the ground restoration work on habitats and watersheds.
To learn more about the Biophilia Foundation, their current projects, and more about their mission to advance biodiversity conservation, visit www.biophiliafoundation.org.
What does sustainable mean? If you look it up in the Dictionary it means maintaining a certain rate and conserving or defending an ecological balance without depletion of natural resources. When I think about sustainability I think of educators, land keepers, and a caring heart. We can create sustainable environments in our own homes, towns, cities, and schools. Innovative and courageous minds alike are changing our communities, the University of Arizona is a leading pioneer and has a massive sustainable campus. They looked to the students to create these sustainable environments and the campus is flourishing. Tucson is a place where the temperatures can easily reach 120* in the summer you might think that that production may slow down, however plants are still thriving and pumping out food on the University of Arizona’s rooftop gardens.
The University has installed a rooftop garden that sits on top of the Student Union it was designed by students for students. The garden provides fresh produce to many people on campus who may not be able to afford fresh food. Around the campus, many buildings have rock structures, water harvesters, and native plants. Compost Cats are trying to create a zero-waste environment within the University. They service the greater Tucson area at a reasonable price. These types of sustainability create a relationship with the community by getting people involved and educated.
From the Office of the Sustainability at the University of Arizona “A tier 1 research and land-grant institution, the University of Arizona addresses global challenges through research and teaching and translates research into action. UA is already using its campus as a living laboratory to pilot and implement innovative and bold solutions that advance sustainability. The Office of Sustainability furthers this progress by elevating and institutionalizing best practices in sustainable operations and development. We work across the university to build relationships and networks that foster a culture of sustainability, focusing on place-based approaches. We actively provide greater student, faculty, staff and community engagement opportunities, offering innovative and unparalleled experiences in sustainability. We collaborate closely with the Institute of the Environment and similar groups and organizations on and off campus, as well as with local government agencies, schools, community non-profits, and the private sector. We work toward ensuring that the University of Arizona continues to be a strong partner and leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship.”
The City of Tucson has also taken on major projects working toward a healthier and more sustainable economy, environment, and community. They are implementing a plan to increase tree canopy’s and create urban food forests within its neighborhoods, with temperatures increasing the need for sustainability this is industry has become very innovative. The city is expanding its solar energy and studying how the rising temperatures are affecting the economy, environment, community, and habitat. Tucson is gaining worldwide attention for its beautiful weather and one of a kind scenery, with nearly 1 million people in Tucson a big jump from 487,000 in 2000 so getting creative and listening to the community to hear what it needs is playing a big part in its success of this development and planning. The City of Tucson is implementing the following projects: climate resilience, sustainable food systems, water sustainability, urban landscape development, green infrastructure, development, and maintenance, and habitat conservation planning. The city offers a water harvesting class that looks to education to help conserve water usage. Tucson Electric Power also sells native trees at a low price and teaches the community how to plant trees so when they mature they are helping to conserve energy in homes. All of these factors play a huge role in the sustainable growth of Arizona.
Workshop: Medicine of Place for Spring in the Sky Islands
with Carla Vargas-Frank of Yerba Nomadica
Saturday, April 6, 9am-1pm
At the Borderlands Restoration Native Plant Nursery
$40, materials included
Nobody will be turned away for lack of funds
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP and to inquire about details and sliding-scale options
In this class we will look specifically at what spring in the desert brings forth; the shifts, the blooms, the bursts of new energy and how those environmental changes affect our physical and energetic bodies. The practice of herbal medicine is a study of relationships between plants, people, and environments. What are our bodies telling us about our mental, emotional, physical needs? What are the plants telling us about their uses? How can the anticipation of seasonal patterns help us to keep our balance throughout the year? In this class we will approach these questions (and hopefully inspire new ones) by focusing on the following areas of exploration:
+ Medicine of Place: Sustainability and the healing potential of engaging with our environment. We will discuss and demonstrate the process and potency of flower & environmental essences.
+ Herbal Bitters & Intro to Taste as Teacher: We can read about herbal constituents in books, but we can also deduce a great number of medicinal actions and value from our highly accessible sense of taste. What are the five main flavors and what can they tell us about a plant’s therapeutic potential? *Emphasis on the seasonal relevance of bitters. We will also be making an herbal bitters in class for home use.
+ Spring Ailments: The old herbal adage goes that the medicine you need is growing around you. Don’t curse the flowers for your seasonal suffering! Often the cause is also the remedy. Herbal allies for southern Arizona allergies.
+ Native Medicinals for Home Gardens: We will highlight a few popular native plant remedies who deserve protection in the wild and a spot in your yard.
Carla Vargas-Frank is the herbalist behind Yerba Nomadica and has been in immersed in the study and practice of herbal medicine for over a decade. Born and raised in the Sonoran desert, it was the familial lineage of the use of botanical medicines from Arizona's diverse bioregions that first inspired her to pursue a greater understanding of the interaction between plants, place and people. Carla studied formally with Nicole Telkes of Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in Austin, TX as well as Karyn Sanders and Sarah Holmes of Blue Otter School of Energetic Herbalism in Fort Jones, CA and informally with many other influential instructors, not least of all the plants themselves. Currently she is in private practice, teaches, and is a a co-founder of Nepantla Healing Arts Community in Tucson, Arizona. (www.yerbanomadica.com)
"I view my work with the herbs as an extension of my activism towards environmental, social, and health justice" -Carla Vargas-Frank
DIRECTIONS: From San Antonio Rd, take a left onto Emily Lane, keep left until you see the greenhouses. Enter the nursery at the gate with the Borderlands Restoration sign on the left.
The Wildlife Corridor is an important connecting tract of land just outside of Patagonia, Arizona. The corridor connects the Sierra San Antonio Mountain range from Mexico to the Patagonia Mountains. The wildlife trail that we worked on will connect the Arizona Trail into the Santa Rita Mountains. It is home to an impressive Agave parryi patch which we know has been a food source to the people of the desert for 9,000 years. Many birds and wildlife call this 1,300 acre of protected land home.
Every Thursday at 8:00 a.m. locals and friends meet at a trail head. Today 16 volunteer “dirt bags” met just outside of Smith Canyon in the wildlife corridor to work the trail. I asked a volunteer Joe, "how long he had been a dirt bag?", and he joked “all my life”. The name dirt bag comes from a leather or canvas bag with 2 handles used to haul dirt or tools.
We wasted no time as we trekked through the desert landscape and arrived at a hillside marked with flags that Chris Strohm, whom has 13 almost 14 years working trails for the United States Forest Service, had strategically placed using GPS to track inclines in the landscape and keep record of points of interest. Chris talked about the importance of safety and carefully guided us along the ½ mile trail that the dirt bags are currently working on. He gave us each a pick and a tool called a McLeod. The McLeod is the #1 tool used to make trails, created by a US Forest Service Ranger Malcolm McLeod, and is somewhat like a rake used to move sediment and shape trails. We got to work picking into the brown rocky soil, moving the dirt off the trail and making sure the width and slope were correct.
I left having a deep appreciation for the work that dirt bags do. The dirt bags play a important role in preserving and keeping pristine trails. This specific trail will connect to the Arizona Trail that runs the whole length of Arizona. It will have panoramic views of 4 mountain ranges, an impressive geological area, and has a vast amount of botany. The trail will showcase many of these areas where the land looks washed away uncovering large rocks and creating washes. The trail goes alongside parts of the desert that look like it is still being moved and created by the elements. Chris and the Dirt Bag crew are dedicated individuals whom are creating a wonderful place for generations to visit, enjoy and cherish for many years. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work alongside them.
Come learn, work and play with Borderlands Restoration Network this summer in the Madrean Sky Islands!
The BRN Field School is an immersive, practical training course designed to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders in the Sky Islands. This three week course, running July 15 - August 8, 2019, focuses on the social and ecological issues of the southern Arizona and northern Mexico borderlands region. The curriculum includes a series of integrated lectures, workshops, field trips, and hands-on learning opportunities in active projects that cover a wide breadth of topics fro technical skills in plant propagation to the foundational principles of a restoration economy. The Field School is guided by a diverse set of leading experts from across the spectrum of agencies, non-profits, and partner organizations.
Field School participants will discuss the current challenges and opportunities of working in the US/Mexico borderlands, all while gaining a sense of place around the unique Madrean Archipelago ecoregion. The varied itinerary will include hands-on projects, lectures, workshops, field experiences, and more.
The BRN Field School topics include topics ranging from the Regional History of the Madrean Archipelago, Cultural/Ecological Perspectives of the US/Mexico Border, Seed Collection and Native Plant Propagation, Watershed Restoration and Impacts of the Border on Flows, Wild Edibles and Harvesting in the Sonoran Desert, Indigenous Food Production and Sovereignty, Sustainable Livelihoods and Ecological Restoration in the Borderlands, Permaculture Design in Arid Regions, Economics of Restoration and Ecosystem Services, and The Intersection of Art and Ecology in the Borderlands.
For more information or to register contact our Education Coordinator, Juliet Jivanti. Email: EducationalServices@BorderlandsRestoration.org
Phone Number: (520) 216-4148