Stewarding Deep Dirt Farm
By: Caleb Weaver, Community Restoration Program Manager
BRN is very excited to announce the purchase of Deep Dirt Farm (DDF), an aridlands permaculture demonstration site. This 19-acre farm is situated two miles outside Patagonia, adjacent to the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve. Founder and visionary of Deep Dirt, Kate Tirion, a Patagonia resident since the early 90’s, built the farm because “there was just a need for it.” What was once a heavily grazed, eroded grassland is now a productive, resilient eco-system that inspires students and volunteers from throughout the world through workshops and internships that support regional habitat development and restoration. Kate is a renowned permaculturist with over 25 years of experience in permaculture design and teaching.
Thousands of young people from all over the world have visited and learned at Deep Dirt Farm while giving back and building infrastructure from reclaimed and repurposed objects over time.
Kate and her husband, Richard Connelly, thoughtfully observed the landscape before developing it to work harmoniously with the land by applying permaculture principles. First, a road was installed to "lay lightly on the land" and serve multiple functions, including a firebreak, a source to shed rainwater, and provide access. Before long, they built a greenhouse, and DDF was producing food. Women Grow Food, founded by Kate and Lynn Davison, a Patagonia resident and BRN board member, soon was formed for women to learn and grow organic vegetables.
For more than 35 years, Kate Tirion’s primary focus has been providing healthy food sources to humans and wildlife. By working with the seasonal variations unique to the Sky Islands, Kate focuses on human and nonhuman health to "Restore the Land and Restore Ourselves,” a Deep Dirt Farm bumper sticker reads. Walking around the farm, you will see repurposed shipping containers, earthen structures with satellite dish rooftops, an outdoor kitchen and shower, a permitted composting toilet, garden beds and orchards, and erosion control structures of every size and shape placed to repair degraded land.
BRN and Deep Dirt Farm have worked together over the years in many ways. In 2012, DDF began growing native plants in collaboration with BRN to introduce them into the property's landscape. BRN has also engaged over one hundred Patagonia youth to work at the farm as part of the Borderlands Earth Care Youth program. Most recently, Women Grow Food came under the management of BRN and its program offerings. DDF also serves as an inspirational and enlightening cornerstone experience of our programming for the many traveling student groups that visit BRN annually.
With the incredible infrastructure already in place at Deep Dirt Farm, BRN is honored to oversee the continued development of the farm, while maintaining Women Grow Food, continuing to serve as a learning center for visiting groups, and further developing programming and learning opportunities into the future. We send our most sincere thanks and appreciation to Kate for all that she has done to create this unique permaculture learning center and to the generous donors who contributed to this purchase.
By: Melissa Fratello, Program Director
Of the many endeavors undertaken by our BRN crews in 2022 - building hundreds of erosion control structures, hosting demonstrations, pulling pesky, pernicious Johnson grass, and collecting, cleaning, and storing native seed - the efforts through which we share our skills rise above. Throughout the year, our watershed restoration crew had the honor and pleasure of carrying out a series of workshops for ecological restoration practitioners, working in partnership with the San Carlos Apache Tribe Department of Environmental Quality to share our experience in all things watershed restoration, from construction of structures to revegetation and calculation of sediment capture.
Why share? Well, Borderlands’ crew is a capable bunch, but on our own, we’re no match for the widespread erosion affecting our watersheds. Yes, erosion is a natural process, but human activity and alteration (like overgrazing, housing development, and road construction) of the physical environment has drastically accelerated this process, resulting in a loss of natural ecosystem function. In a region like the Madrean Archipelago, every drop of monsoon and winter rain is precious, and accelerated erosion essentially wastes it by spreading it far and wide, moving swiftly across the landscape while pulling nutrients from the soil, and polluting waterways with murky sediment. There are simple, age-old solutions our crew has successfully implemented to slow erosion, restoring hydrological and ecological function to our watersheds.
Tess Wagner, our Watershed Restoration Program Manager, worked closely with San Carlos Apache Tribe (SCAT) Department of Environmental Quality Director Christy Sangster-Begay to develop a curriculum that met the needs of participants, and that allows for this work to be replicated throughout the region. Our crew was on hand during these week-long workshops to guide participants and discuss various methods of construction and revegetation, and one media luna, three Zuni bowls, and six one-rock dams later, they all had foundational knowledge to bring back to their home watersheds.
At our core, this is what Borderlands Restoration Network is all about. Restoration economies restore the ecology of a region, but they also restore the ecology of communities, our connection to each other, and our connection to and understanding of the natural world. We’re so grateful to the EPA Border 2025 initiative for funding these efforts, and look forward to hosting more workshops in 2023.
Educating for Change
By: Jordan Sene, Youth Education Program Coordinator
The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) is a US-based nonprofit organization. It is an integrated network of education professionals with members in more than 30 countries throughout the world. This October, NAAEE hosted its 51st Annual Conference in partnership with the Arizona Association of Environmental Education (AAEE) in Tucson, Arizona. The conference’s theme was Educating For Change, emphasizing the powerful role education can play in creating healthier communities and tackling today’s complex environmental and social issues.
As BRN’s Youth Education Program Coordinator, I received the 2021 Excellence in Environmental Education Awards from the AAEE for my work on an online course on jaguar habitat restoration and community advocacy and for moving the Borderlands Earth Care Youth, forward planning for its expansion to Nogales and Rio Rico, AZ. Now, I am a part of the AAEE eeFellow Program, a career development program designed for young professionals to advance their profession in environmental education (EE).
Through the fellowship, participants gain skills in creating formal and non-formal EE programs with measurable outcomes, build their understanding of quality and meaningful educational experiences, and have the accessibility to tools, resources, and mentors to grow as a skilled EE provider.
Through the Fellowship Program and support from BRN, I had the opportunity to attend the NAAEE conference, which was my first ever large national conference. At the event, I got to meet many great people in person including my colleagues and mentors from the program. The first session I attended, Advancing a Diverse and Resilient Green Careers Sector, really set the bar high for my expectations for the rest of the conference as three empowered women talked about their experiences in the field. They shared research and anecdotes showcasing the importance of increasing exposure of STEM-related fields for populations that are disproportionately impacted by environmental justice issues. The session was relevant to the services and opportunities BRN provides to enhance youth’s pursuit of the field through experiential work, culturally competent curriculum, and accessibility to mentors.
I attended over 10 sessions that included traditional presentations, hands-on workshops, and an evaluation clinic. The conference also led nature walks, art ecology activities, tabling and field trips. In one of the sessions, I learned a lot about using Universal Design for Learning in creating inclusive EE programs so that we can be more welcoming and accessible for all learners. In another, a young, inspiring college student shared their invention of “Watershed Clue,” an interactive game about watersheds built using NOAA’s MWEE framework. Since then, I’ve been extremely motivated to leverage existing frameworks to incorporate more collaborative activities that allow for artistic expression and integrates outdoor exploration that meets an individual’s learning needs.
One of the last sessions I attended was to support students and staff from the University of Arizona. A panel from UArizona and partnering organizations shared their experiences and actionable strategies for engaging diverse students with environmental learning opportunities. The panel helped me consider the barriers and opportunities that exist for connecting students with minoritized identities to environmental education experiences and projects. This was relevant to the work I do for BRN in the sense that we are trying to develop a pathway for youth to pursue restoration-related careers at a local level. Part of this is trying to build awareness of the different pathways youth can consider, including pursuing sustainability-related programs in college, university or technical trainings, but also providing opportunities starting at a young age. We need to empower, guide and support today’s youth who are the next stewards of their communities, places and environment.
By: James Dennison, Native Plant Technician
From September 27-29 I attended the “Reforestation Pipeline in the Western United States” conference in Missoula, Montana. It was a joint meeting hosted by the Western Forestry and Conservation Association, Intermountain Containers Seedling Grower’s Association and Intertribal Nursery Council. It was the first conference I have ever attended and I was particularly interested in attending the Intertribal Nursery Council portion of the meeting.
Reforestation is restoring habitats in areas that have been damaged by various deforestation causes, such as wildfire, land resource extraction (from mining to timber industries), and pests. Essentially, replanting trees and vegetation to help the land heal.
There were amazing science and research presentations covering plans and strategies to increase reforestation in the Western United States through seed production, and a collaboration of federal and private (especially tribal nurseries) entities. There were a total of 120 attendees and 17 presentations from research physiologists. It got technical with science, statistics, and a lot of industry lingo; which was a bit overwhelming for someone with less technical training, like me, but I feel I was able to understand the big picture.
I also attended two field trips to two awesome local nurseries, one of which was Great Bear Restoration Nursery, located in Hamilton, Montana near the base of the Bitterroot Mountains. They work on Rocky Intermountain West native plants. I was told they had close to 300 native shrub, grass, forb, and tree species. All are used for habitat restoration or home gardens. Also, it is a women-owned nursery! The second field trip was to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Forestry Greenhouse in Polson, MT. This facility was established in 1999 and used to be exclusively a native plants nursery, but changed production to mainly coniferous pine trees in recent years to help supply reforestation efforts.
The highlight was the Intertribal Nursery Council meeting. A council of indigenous-led nurseries hosted by co-organizer of the conference, Plant Research Physiologist and Tribal Nursery Specialist, Jeremy Pinto of the USDA Forest Service. The council’s goal is to provide a network and support other tribal organizations fighting climate change, deforestation, or drought. It was exciting and warming to meet Jeremy, who is also a member of the Díne like myself, and from my hometown of Gallup, NM. Jeremy hosted a dinner where all tribal affiliates who attended the conference gave presentations on various works they do with nurseries, food sovereignty, health in native communities, and the power of indigenous plants. I am grateful for the experience and met great people who do work in their tribal communities for future generations and for the land itself. One of the great people I met was Ken Parker, a certified nursery and landscape professional and native plant consultant residing in New York. Ken is a key resource of indigenous knowledge of plants.
Overall it was a great experience and I loved Missoula, MT. It was a beautiful small town and I am grateful for the opportunity BRN provided for me to attend the conference.
My Summer: Sonoran Field Course 2022
By: Ana Lucía Flores García, SFC Participant
Sonoran Field Course (SFC), you were the best moment of my summer 2022, you exceeded my expectations and knocked down that barrier that had stopped me for so long. I can't believe everything I've learned, everything I've experienced in such a short time, and all the love I've received from the entire team in just nine days, the best nine days spent without a doubt. I would love to have a time machine and relive every moment, from the morning talks, the afternoons at work and the nights full of laughter and memories.
I would really love for everyone who has this opportunity to enjoy it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am sure you will not want it to end once you see and meet the great team that makes all this possible. I tell you myself, I was always afraid to try new things, to leave home and see the other side of the coin, the real world I would say.
It all started in the City of Hermosillo, Sonora. Like everyone, I arrived with a lot of nerves and with normal expectations so to speak, because I really didn't know what to expect. I never thought I would get so attached and I never thought I would learn so much in such a short time. I think that the first day was something curious. We began by introducing ourselves, talking about Sonoran ethnic groups and meeting last year's graduates, who made us feel even more confident about the incredible decision we had made.
On the second day, the Sonoran Field Course began with a climb to Johnson Hill and a talk with Sergio and Luis from Caminantes del Desierto which is a group that promotes the care and restoration of the desert. Next we visited Palo Alto School to learn more about the native plant nursery project that past Sonoran Field Course interns created. It really caught my attention with the plant propagation and aquaponic workshops they teach to the little ones. Thanks to Director Limón and Leonela, a SFC alumna, for the work that you’re doing at Palo Alto to share these important lessons with children.
Next, we talked a bit about green infrastructure, which I sincerely see as the salvation of many countries, since they are ideas that benefit an entire community and region. Thanks to Rogelio Cota, Director at Cota Estévez Arquitectura, for sharing your experience of green infrastructure. After leaving Hermosillo, we arrived at El Aribabi Conservation Ranch in La Casona, where German and Marcia welcomed us with arms wide open and a feast of food for all.
The third day, facilitator and a great human being, Jorge, taught us principle number three of "leave no trace" which talks about being aware of our waste and knowing how to dispose of it properly. I really will not forget that talk, nor the great meaning it can have. Shortly after, German told us a little about what his family has done at El Aribabi Conservation Ranch, which is basically keeping the bioregion in its natural state while continuing to function as a cattle ranch. That same day we met the incomparable Dr. Joaquín Murrieta of Watershed Management Group, who with his fascinating talks and activities, made me fall in love with the subject of rainwater harvesting. He captured my interest within the first five minutes, and I must admit that not only I, but all of us, were a hundred percent attentive to his explanations. As the day ended, I already felt more connected with everyone.
We left in the morning for Cuenca los Ojos (CLO), the place that I definitely fell in love with because of the food delicacies that they gave us every day and the great human beings there. Valer Clark, the founder and José Manuel Pérez, Conservation Director of CLO , are without a doubt a great inspiration to me and everyone. I have no words to convey the great restoration wonders she has achieved on the ranch over time. CLO guided us in building nine erosion control structures and educated us about grassland management. We also learned about native plant propagation and seed balls from Francesca Claverie and Perin McNelis of Borderlands Restoration Network's Native Plant Program. I will never forget this place and I will never forget the people who make it up.
I also appreciate the two great Sonoran Field Course facilitators Jorge and Anays. I know that Jorge will always be the right person to talk about everything, because he knows how to listen and chat with you like a great friend. Then there is Anays with her great intelligence and dedication. I am sure that any barrier that comes my way she will be the one to ask for real advice. Then there is Juliet who is the coordinator of the program, I can only say that wow you know how to handle everything wonderfully, how brave you are and what a great charisma you have. You always made me feel at home every time we talked. I thank them and all my colleagues immensely. I take the best of you, you are phenomenal. I hope the road brings us together again and to live more experiences like these. I admire every talk I have with each one, they are my example to follow. I love them. I LOVE IT HERE. 😊
To read the Spanish version, please click here.
Toadally New Friends
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
My family including three humans, two dogs, and one cat recently moved from one side of Patagonia to the other. Our new location is closer to Sonoita Creek, and there is more moisture in the surrounding environment. Even before monsoon season hit, I noticed we had some unique amphibious wildlife to admire. Residing on our porch was a canyon tree frog, Hyla arenicolor. Try as I might to relocate this little cutie to a safer location it always seemed to reappear the next day quietly letting me know it had every intention of enjoying the screened-in porch as I did. Tree frogs have the surprising ability to change colors to camouflage themselves. Until I discovered this trickery was expected, this little friend had me fooled into thinking there was more than one frog claiming our porch as its habitat.
Canyon tree frog.
Enjoying this little frog who decided to share her space with us felt special. Little did I know, more of her relatives would soon show themselves. The red-spotted toad, Bufo punctatus, arrived with the first couple of monsoon storms. Slightly larger than the tree frog, they dotted our driveway and hopped about the yard with their red spots making them particularly easy to identify. These charismatic and abundant toads can amazingly tolerate a 40% loss in body water and still be active during dry months, although they do hibernate underground during winter. We adapted further to accommodate this second amphibian, and the dogs who had been banished from the porch were no longer allowed off-leash in the driveway where the red toads seem happiest in the evenings.
The dogs would face one more challenge, one that could make them deathly ill, the Sonoran Desert toad, Bufo alvarius. The Sonoran Desert toad possesses skin toxins that are strong enough to kill a dog and have been known to cause sickness and hallucinogenic qualities in humans. Two of these toxic beauties live in the dog run and have a nice little burrow allowing for some pretty cool videos. Lucky for us, one of our dogs seems to instinctively know to avoid them, leaving only one dog to keep close on nighttime potty breaks. Frequently they are easy to spot, immediately outside our backdoor, eating bugs attracted by the inside lights.
Many amphibian species live a life of duality. Part of the year, they hibernate underground, part of the year they are active and above ground. I find myself living a duality around them myself. Part of the year, I do not see them, and part of the year, I do. I choose to accommodate their duality and mix up my schedule to avoid any harm coming to them. These fantastic creatures with apparent superpowers can bring wonder into our lives if we take the time to learn about them and make space for their busy times.
Borderlands Restoration Network strives to restore local watersheds, including protecting and creating habitats for frogs and toads. Amphibians face many challenges as their bodies require abundant moisture to function correctly and are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Some ways you can help our local amphibians include planting native plants and avoiding the use of pesticides that turn the bugs that frogs and toads eat into toxic food. Also, if possible, avoid driving or cycling in the summer evenings, especially during or immediately after the monsoon rain. If you have to get out there and enjoy the rain, slow down and take a walk, you might meet some toadally new friends along the way.
Important note: To reach a larger audience, I have used the well-known term hibernation to describe the rest period some amphibians enter during the year's cooler months. The proper term for amphibians and other cold-blooded animals is brumation, which is different from some mammals' hibernation process.
Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) 2022
By: Jordan Sene, Youth Education Program Coordinator
This summer Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) celebrated its 10 year anniversary with 13 borderlands youth interns and five adult leaders in two crews, one in Douglas and one in Patagonia. Both crews learned and worked on a variety of restoration worksites alongside conservation professionals creating a transformative and inspiring summer internship experience.
BECY is a 6-week paid internship opportunity for youth from rural borderland communities. Program curriculum emphasizes restoration of local watersheds, ecosystems, and communities.
Amongst many learning opportunities, the Patagonia crew had the chance to work at BRN’s Borderlands Nursery & Seed helping establish a native seed growout field that will expand growing capacity of native plants for seed collection. Interns also helped propagate and transplant native plants to be used in ecological restoration projects and for retail sale at the nursery. Participants toured the newly expanded seed lab and learned more about the uniqueness and importance of the Madrean Archipelago and how our local native plants have distinct adaptations to regional conditions. After helping clean and prepare native seed, interns made seed pellets used in restoration to help seeds stay in place, avoid predation, and assist in germination when they are distributed in the landscape.
BECY Patagonia crew also worked on local community projects including building a rain garden in the heart of Patagonia. Initiated by Patagonia residents, the BECY Patagonia crew shaped and armored the earth to passively harvest rainwater that flows down the side of the street during rainstorms. This rainwater will now soak into the Patagonia Memorial Garden, supporting native trees and newly planted wildflowers. This project was supported by local residents and the United States Forest Service, through a local Secure Rural Schools grant. BECY Patagonia also partnered with the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center to create four new vegetable garden beds, install a rainwater-fed drip irrigation system, and install a second rainwater collection cistern to collect rain water from the roof supporting the sustainable mini-urban farm project.
At Deep Dirt Farm, youth worked alongside BRN’s education staff, professors and students from the University of Arizona’s Southwest Field Studies in Writing. Since 2018, BECY has participated in an exchange with creative writing students seeking Master’s Degrees from the University of Arizona. The UA students learn about life, work, and restoration on the US/Mexico border while hosting creative writing workshops so BECY interns can creatively explore the impact of their summer experience on their lives. The team worked together to collect seed, weed, and turn over the twenty-two beds in the main greenhouse.
Halfway through the season, both BECY Patagonia and Douglas worked together alongside BRN’s Watershed Restoration staff at T4 Ranch. Together, they completed dozens of erosion control structures and collected multiple piles of wood that will be mulched in the fall. The mulch will then be spread throughout the tops of drainages to help protect the topsoil, soak in water and support diverse native vegetation.
The Douglas crew had the opportunity to complete work on the Winkler and Sycamore Ranch in New Mexico thanks to the Malpai Borderlands Group. At Winkler Ranch they removed a quarter mile of barbed wire fencing because the landowner will be installing a wildlife fence, allowing wild animals to pass through and will keep cattle safe. At this site, they also completed six large trincheras with volcanic rock found throughout the landscape. At Sycamore Ranch, interns repaired existing trincheras.
Interns also spent two weeks in the Huachuca Mountains building over 50 erosion control structures within the Coronado National Forest to help reestablish habitat for Montezuma Quail. This project was funded by Southern Arizona Quail Forever and the National Forest Foundation. While in the Huachucas, interns learned how to identify native plants and tips on how to track wildlife.
For the last couple of weeks, the crew returned to the Douglas Public Library and the Douglas High School Land Lab. Last year, BECY installed a rainwater harvesting cistern off the roof of the DHS Land Lab greenhouse. At the library, interns installed an irrigation system and watered plants put in to support green space at the library. This year at the Land Lab, students incorporated a rainwater harvesting berry patch. At the library, they installed a grape trellis and planted a pollinator garden. For their last day, they toured El Coronado Ranch to see first-hand the flowing waters and results of erosion control structures after 20-25 years.
After six weeks of hard work the program came to a close on July 14 concluding with a graduation celebration in each community where interns presented each of their individual community restoration projects that are a requirement for successful completion of the program. The interns shared with their family, friends, and the community the experiences they had and how the program impacted them personally.
Many students built food or pollinator gardens and one intern organized a clothing collection drive where donations went to refugees to show the importance of reusing clothes and diverting reusable materials from landfills as much as possible while serving those most in need. Another project focused on the importance of reaching the next generation of land stewards through community building and raising awareness. One intern volunteered as an assistant basketball coach locally and shared about the importance of protecting our watersheds and the potential to be a part of next year’s BECY program.
We are grateful to all the participants, staff and partners that make this program a reality each year that has now touched the lives of 170 participants making the borderlands more resilient in more ways than one.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
Historically fire season in Arizona occurred from May through October. According to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, fire season is now year-round, and humans start nine out of 10 wildfires. Last summer’s extraordinary monsoon season has created an abundance of dry fuel, prompting Borderlands Wildlife Preserve (BWP) managers to reach out to local experts to learn more about fire prevention for the preserve. Fortunately, the Town of Patagonia has an excellent volunteer fire department that can advise and help local homeowners and land managers.
I was happy that Patagonia Volunteer Fire and Rescue Captain Zay Hartigan was able to spare some of his valuable time to access our needs on the preserve. As we drove, Zay pointed out areas of concern and made recommendations to provide easier access for fire crews if needed. The beginnings of a preserve fire mitigation plan are now in place with a priority to protect our neighbor’s property where fire could potentially spread from the preserve to property with homes. To achieve this, a fire break or clearing would need to be created.
Michael and Daniel McGuire of Fire Prevention Specialists (FPS), a local fire prevention company, were happy to help us achieve this goal. With fire prevention and sustainable practices in mind, FPS brought in local goat herds to clear a defensible space around areas of concern, like homes and other sensitive areas. The goats are happy to munch on excessive growth, and Mike and Dan handle anything left behind with tools such as weedwhackers. The difference is dramatic and ensures the ability to slow or stop a fire from moving through the area.
There are many resources for people to learn more about protecting their homes from fire. Here is a link to an excellent booklet put out by the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management on Firewise tactics and fire behavior in Arizona. Calling your local town hall or fire department is also a great way to find information and help create a safer space regarding fire prevention. We here at Borderlands Wildlife Preserve would like to extend our greatest gratitude to the Patagonia Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and Fire Prevention Specialists for helping us make the preserve safer for all.
By: Caleb Weaver, Youth Education Program Manager
Thanks to recommendations made by a committee of Santa Cruz County residents convened by the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, $35K of grant funding available through federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will support Borderlands Restoration Network to partner with the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center (PYEC) to develop a mini-urban farm at the PYEC. Participants of BRN’s Borderland Earth Care Youth alongside visiting groups from local colleges, universities, and visiting youth groups will construct the mini-urban farm, learning about both the design and implementation processes.
The farm will be sustained solely by rainwater, teaching youth how to grow resilient food crops in projected drier futures. The PYEC mini-urban farm has been designed to produce organic vegetables, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwis, grapes, pineapple guava, apples, pears, pomegranates, figs, and eggs in the face of a changing climate. No groundwater or municipal water will support the growth of vegetables, fruits, or even laying hens. Once the mini-urban farm is installed, food will become available for youth center attendees and families alike.
During the early stages of the pandemic, food security was a major issue for families in Patagonia. This mini-urban farm alongside paid training for local youth, and PYEC's agri-business incubator program will together provide a resilient community food source and demonstration site.
Cultivating Water Stewards
By: Damien Carlos, Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag Facilitator
With the end of the academic year comes the close of the third year of Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag, which translates from the O’odham language as ‘Water is Life.’ The Tohono O’odham are a desert Indigenous community located along what is today known as the US/Mexico border. At a Climate Change Forum several years ago, Tohono O’odham youth discussed their endangered water resources, voicing a desire to preserve rainwater and groundwater, and to connect more deeply with their himdag or ‘way of life.’
Baboquivari High School (BHS) and Borderlands Restoration Network collaborated to pilot an after-school program that hired BHS students to work alongside conservation professionals, designing and installing a rainwater-harvesting native plant and heritage food garden on campus. This program, called Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag, was designed for TO youth to earn valuable skills, training, and work experience. The first cohort of Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag students designed and built a project called Ṣu:dagī Oidag (Rain Garden) on the BHS Campus.
The latest group of Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag interns has designed a new project that will be installed at BHS. The design aims to capture about 20% of all rainwater that falls on the site. Our interns have designed this project to give BHS students a sense of ownership of their campus and more importantly, a calm space to relax. This cohort will spend a few days out of their summer break to dig catch basins and leave a framework for the next group of Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag interns to build on.
We thank the Baboquivari High School administration for helping create this opportunity, our presenters for sharing their knowledge with our interns, and our students of Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag for giving their time and hard work.
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