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.
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.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
Beavers are the original water storage engineers and relatively recently have been gaining recognition in the field of habitat restoration as vital partners in the journey to restoring watersheds. Beaver’s biological activities of dam building and pond creation slow water flow and allows water to infiltrate more deeply into surrounding and upstream soils. Beaver dams also regulate water temperature and help trap sediment filling in erosion areas. These slower and wetter waterways are less prone to fire damage, flooding, and biodiversity loss than other areas where beavers have been eliminated.
After the colonization of the Americas, the beaver suffered the same fate as many other animals. Their populations plummeted due to over-harvesting and habitat destruction, leaving many gaps in the ecosystem where beaver needs to be restored. Arizona is in the arid west and has also seen a loss of 96% of its historic surface waters due to recent human activity. Making the remaining 4% extremely important to protect, restore and expand. Much of the restoration work at the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve and by Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) revolves around restoring our local watersheds with similar methods to our friend, the beaver, but primarily in dry landscapes.
Recently led by Watershed Management Group (WMG), I had the opportunity along with some of BRN’s watershed restoration crew members, to join in with a group of like-minded individuals and organizations to discuss the reintroduction of beaver in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. With some prior restoration to retore suitable beaver habitat, this area with year-round water flow could provide an ideal setting for a small population of beaver and a space to study further how beaver populations re-establish in our region. Find out more about how you can help move this process along by visiting the link above to WMG.
Some more good news for beavers is also on the headlines in California. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has requested five permanent positions and a $1.67 million California Environmental License Plate Fund in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022–23 and $1.44 million in FY 2023–24 and ongoing to fund and support the implementation of a beaver restoration program within the department. If this request is approved, it could serve as an example for other states to do the same and create the national support network that beavers and humans need to coexist and partner against climate change. For more information on what this program could help maintain and support, please visit Worth A Dam and read the news article from May 14th, 2022, titled This Is The Big One: Dam Good News.
Good news for beavers or any fellow living creature is good news for us all.
By: Sarah Klingenstein, Patagonia Regional Times Editorial Team
Mayor Andrea Wood signed a new conservation easement on May 2 at the Patagonia Town Hall. The town, in cooperation with Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN), will ensure that 1,800 acres of land in the Sonoita Creek Wildlife Corridor is kept in its undeveloped state. Ron Pulliam, ecologist and board member of Borderlands Restoration Network and Wildlife Corridors, LLC and Matthew Jewell, Forest Legacy Program Specialist with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management were instrumental in securing the grants that made this project possible.
Pulliam said, “We’ve been working on this conservation easement project with the Arizona Forestry Department for five years and it is coming to fruition. We will be able to pay off all our debt on the land that we have purchased over the years for the Wildlife Corridor. Arizona Game and Fish has identified this land as the most important corridor in the state to connect the Sierra Madre to the Sky Islands for species like jaguar, mountain lion, and black bear, and now this habitat and migratory pathway will be preserved.”
“It is also an area that is open and available for hikers, birders, and mountain bikers. We think it contributes well to the economy of the local area and the reputation of Patagonia as a nature-based tourism hub.”
Jewell pointed out that the project is the result of a collaborative effort involving federal, state and local government agencies working hand-in-hand with business and nonprofit partners to achieve a goal that will perpetually benefit both people and wildlife. "This project," he said "also includes access to the new section of the Arizona Trail accessible from Casa Blanca Canyon Road."
Locals and visitors are invited to enjoy the Smith Canyon Loop Trail on the property, which features rolling terrain, views of the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains, and a recently completed series of interpretive signs made possible through a generous financial gift from an anonymous donor.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
The Borderlands Wildlife Preserve (BWP) is managed primarily to protect and restore a corridor for migratory wildlife. This passageway links mountain range habitats of the Arizona Sky Islands and those of northcentral Mexico. In addition to restoration and habitat conservation, the BWP is a place for people to enjoy and use for low impact recreational activities respectfully. We are happy to announce a new partnership with Arizona Trail Association (ATA) that will allow easier access for people to enjoy the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) and BWP adjoining trails.
In partnership with the ATA, Wildlife Corridors LLC has created a formal easement to build a trailhead and half-acre parking area along with a short connector trail to access the AZT off Casa Blanca Canyon Road, about 5 miles north of the Town of Patagonia. This new trailhead will access the Arizona Trail and the Cross Corridor Trail within the BWP. A formal kiosk will be on site with more details on the area and trail usage.
The AZT and Cross Corridor Trail allow non-motorized uses, primarily hiking, running, mountain biking and horseback riding. Dogs are welcome on the AZT traveling through the BWP but must remain leashed and on the trail. Dogs are not permitted on the BWP trail adjoining the AZT, the Cross Corridor Trail. As a multi-use trail, it is crucial to respect guidelines for all users' safety and allow for the continued multi-use status to stay in place. Please read over the additional policies provided at the kiosk and other onsite signage.
The official opening of the new Little Casa Blanca Canyon Trailhead will be Saturday, June 4 beginning with a formal ribbon cutting ceremony that will take place at the parking area trailhead at 8am. The public and trail enthusists are welcome to join the ribbon cutting ceremony and are invited to explore this unique access point after that time. We hope you enjoy the trails as much as we do!
Please reach out with any questions to Cholla Nicoll at email@example.com. For more information on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, please visit their website.
By: Clarissa Moreno, Sofía Vargas, Anays Blanco & Jorge Chacón, BRN Sonoran Interns
Last summer, Mexican university students and young professionals completed Borderlands Restoration Network’s Sonoran Field Course, hosted between the beautiful plateaus of the northern border of Sonora and Chihuahua, in the private natural reserve “Los Ojos", officially designated as an Area Voluntarily Designated for Conservation near Agua Prieta, Sonora. As part of the program, we (Clarissa, Sofia, Anays & Jorge) were selected as the 2021-2022 Sonoran Field Course interns. Now, we find ourselves with blossoming ideas, preparing the second iteration of this course, which integrates the skills developed in its first edition and new aspects that will provide a more comprehensive, diverse, and renewed vision.
We began a journey which has been essential to connect with our environment and with people who seek to improve their communities. Along the way, we have been adding partners, ideas, knowledge, experiences, and building a collaborative network that allows us to re-establish the link between the community and our natural environment, by building healthier and resilient spaces for the different life forms that share it.
An exceptional elementary school: Palo Alto American School
Palo Alto Escuela Americana is a private bilingual school in Hermosillo, Sonora. The school has an Ecology Club that coordinates projects of aquaponics, vermicomposting and a small vineyard to encourage children’s environmental awareness perspective. From the summer of 2020 through spring of 2021, Sonoran Interns Omar, Miranda, Anays and Jorge worked together with Palo Alto to build a native plant greenhouse that is currently growing native trees that were first germinated last year. We, as the new generation of Sonoran Interns, continue to support this project by helping with seed collection, facilitating native plant trainings including seed treatment and germination techniques and sharing knowledge about the importance of native plants.
Another project currently being developed with Palo Alto that is very exciting for us, involved the implementation of green infrastructure by restoring a median located next to the school. The project consisted of implementing passive rainwater harvesting systems and planting native plants into the landscape. Through collaboration, we worked on the design and agreements with the neighbors in the area, and the Hermosillo Municipality's Parks and Gardens Department, who have greatly supported this project. We hope that this median will act as a case study and a demonstration site for the next Sonoran Field Course.
In search for mobilizers
We are currently preparing for the 2022 Sonoran Field Course and we are looking for new leaders who will represent the ideals of conservation for their communities through the application of strategies that will strengthen collaborative networks by connecting with local partners and improving community spaces through their restoration. For this, we have conducted planning sessions in which we materialized ideas and a strategic plan that will allow the Sonoran Field Course to be more varied and diverse for learning of ecological restoration and economic restoration techniques.
The entire team of interns and graduates are collaborating to make possible this great learning experience that will begin in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, to address the urban component and then move to Voluntary Conservation Areas such as Cuenca Los Ojos that are part of important biological corridors in the northeast of the state. We hope that this new approach can further inspire a new generation of conservation leaders.
To read the Spanish version of this blog, please click here.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
April always has me thinking about eggs. The stores are full of Easter merchandise, and eggs are everywhere. Growing up in Tucson, I even remember one spring finding a lizard egg in our front yard and marveling at its tiny size, full of wonder as to what it would become. So many incredible animals in the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve start their lives inside a protective shell. One of the most amazing animals that many might think hatches out of an egg is the scorpion, but unlike many other insects scorpions give birth to live young.
Scorpions tend to give birth to their young in the summertime and, depending on the species, sometimes ride around on their mother's back until their first molt when they are mature enough to survive on their own. All scorpions are predators and, as such, fill an important role by consuming other small animals, including cockroaches. Some natural ways to deter scorpions on your property are likely to impede their prey. Keep yard waste, and food scraps cleaned up and eliminate bug-attracting lights and water sources.
Giant Hairy Scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis).
Scorpions can be found on every continent except Antarctica and are an incredibly ancient species dating back approximately 400 million years. Scorpions have changed very little over their existence as a species and could be a valuable indicator of overall ecosystem health. Over thirty scorpion species can be found in Arizona, yet the only one considered dangerous to humans is the bark scorpion (Centruroides exilicauda). For more information on bark scorpions and what to do if you encounter one, please visit Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.
Part of the responsibility and fun of living in a highly biologically diverse region is enjoying the cute and cuddly critters like bunnies and baby birds and understanding and protecting creatures like scorpions, snakes, and spiders. One safe way to explore the world of scorpions is to take advantage of another fun fact, scorpions all fluoresce or glow under UV light. Purchase a UV flashlight and head out on a warm summer night. Look near the base of walls or under trees and bushes for a bright green glow. Keep a safe distance and as with any other wild animal, do not touch or capture it but observe an animal that has been surviving for a very, very long time.
If you are interested in learning more about scorpions in our region, I would highly recommend reading the book Amazing Arachnids by local author Jillian Cowles.
As daylight waned and winter came into its own, the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center (PYEC) began planning for the summer 2022 monsoon season building upon prior efforts to harvest rainwater, build vegetable gardens, and plan future crops. Through collaborations with BRN programs including Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY), and Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag (Water is Life) the youth center is creating a sustainable and rich landscape that creates opportunities for youth to learn and care for the land while growing sustainable food crops.
During the summer of 2021, BECY installed a 2,500-gallon cistern to gather rainwater from the youth center roof. A full cistern and a gravity-fed irrigation system now allows rainwater to support a verdant garden of peas, carrots, onions, lettuce, kale, chard, and broccoli, which is tended to by youth center attendees. Additionally, BRN has developed a landscape plan with the intention of expanding the food gardens, building a food forest, adding pollinator gardens, and providing a passive rainwater chicken coop. When it rains, a small cistern in the coop will fill with water accessible to chickens.
As part of this expansion, students visiting BRN from The Webb School in California and participants from our Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag (Water is Life) program from Baboquivari High School on the Tohono O’odham Nation, came together to install rain basins and a berry patch. The rain basins are connected to the roof with gutters and PVC piping, allowing water to trickle in when it rains. Next, they installed an irrigation system that will be connected to a new cistern generously donated by PYEC parent, Matthew Hendricks of Hendricks Sewer & Drain. Unlike many native plants that require less water, the berries will need supplemental watering during dry times of the year.
Through a series of collaborative workshops led by BRN and PYEC, and funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York Community Trust, and generous PYEC donors, Patagonia youth have since planted six blueberry bushes, three raspberry and blackberry bushes, two pineapple guava trees, and two kiwi vines. These plants were inoculated with compost and compost tea from Deep Dirt Farm. PYEC youth are now completing their finishing touches on the berry patch, removing excess soil and stabilizing the basins with rock. Feel free to peek over the fence across from the Patagonia Volunteer Fire Department to see their progress!
Youth are already planning what they’ll do with the bounty from the berry patch – jam, blueberry muffins, and gobbling fresh raspberries off the bush. Some of the youth have never tasted the fruit that is now growing at the PYEC. The berry patch rain garden and the cistern-fed veggie garden will continue to sustain Patagonia families long into the future.
If you’re interested in learning more about harvesting rainwater in rain gardens or cisterns, sign up for our upcoming free Rainwater Harvesting Workshop series on Saturdays in April, with in-person classes both in Patagonia and Huachuca City.
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