By: Audrey Rader, Watershed & Habitat Restoration Program Manager
After nearly two years as Borderlands Restoration Network’s Watershed and Habitat Restoration Program Manager, I am writing to say goodbye. As my time with BRN draws to a close, I am filled with gratitude for the incredible opportunities and deep relationships I’ve fostered through this organization.
I am extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished with the Watershed Restoration Program over the past couple of years, and we couldn’t have done it without the tireless work and dedication of the restoration crew, volunteers, and the rest of the BRN staff. My hope was to craft a program that would holistically address the most pressing concerns across this special region. I think we’ve done a great job in pulling this off, and I hope the region we serve agrees with me. Some highlights from my time include:
The Madrean Sky Islands are home to some of the nation’s highest biodiversity, from enclaves of Madrean pine-oak woodlands, towering cottonwood galleries, sweeping grasslands so expansive they could break your heart, to riparian areas abuzz with frenetic activity. I’m beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to call this region home and to get my hands dirty restoring it. Thanks for everything, BRN!
By: Cholla Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician
Wintertime in the Sky Islands brings cooler weather and new challenges to the wildlife living in the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve. With some much-needed rain finally falling on the preserve in late January, my mind has been on the importance of water in animals' lives. Luckily for the animals that find themselves traveling through or residing in the preserve, there are several water sources available to them. Three of these water sources are custom-made wildlife drinkers, expertly designed by local engineer Dave Ellis. These drinkers are shallow basins that allow animals to escape if they fall in the water. This shallow depth also leads to the water freezing on a rare occasion.
This frozen water provides a somewhat comical series of pictures of our local wildlife handling this situation in various ways. A bobcat decides to nap on the ice, seemingly not bothered by the cold one bit. A skunk licks the ice while two apprehensive gray foxes wait their turn. Finally, a mule deer buck decides that chewing through the tubing might be a faster option than waiting around for ice to melt. Fixing the drinkers has become a unique engineering game since you can not design something safe and indestructible for all the local wildlife.
Although these wildlife drinkers are not a natural part of the landscape, they provide a source of water in a region where most of the surface water has been depleted by human needs and wants. These drinkers are in off-trail areas providing a safe space for animals to take a drink. As the preserve’s wildlife technician, one of my duties is to maintain these drinkers. Although fixing them can sometimes be a challenge, it allows me an opportunity to provide stewardship to the wildlife in a non-invasive way. The reward is often a chance to share a wildlife trail cam image we can all relate to, the happiness a much-needed drink of water brings to all desert dwellers.
For more information on water usage in the U.S. and Arizona please see this recent U of A study on how ground water depletion effects stream flow. For a summary in local AZ news please see this AZ Central article.
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