By: Denisse Ortega Lorona, BRN Education Director
This summer was a success for the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) program after last year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it is our duty to be as safe as possible, this year we limited our participant numbers and took all of the precautions as advised by the CDC, resulting in a very safe, successful and inspiring summer.
The two BECY crews based out of Douglas and Patagonia, including participants from Rio Rico, totaled 16 participants and 4 facilitators that did a wonderful job helping lead the 9th year of this program.
Throughout the summer, the BECY interns worked on a wide variety of restoration projects alongside Borderlands Restoration Network staff and our program partners to repair erosion by building erosion control structures, protect habitat by removing invasive plants, restore a pond, learn about water harvesting, native plants, and planted over 70 trees in Doc Mock Park as well as worked with local ranchers at the Santa Fe Ranch, all while learning valuable skills and developing a deeper understanding of the land and ecosystems of the borderlands region.
After six weeks of hard work the program came to a close on July 15th 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 hard work and experiences they had and how the program impacted them personally.
Community projects spanned many topics including one intern hosting a successful clothing swap event in Douglas where community members exchanged used clothing for free. One intern also worked alongside the BRN Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician learning how to identify wildlife through our wildlife cameras, using this experience to teach other interns about fossils, plants, and animals. Others, focused on food and pollinator gardens in their backyards and community spaces.
Participants sharing their community restoration projects and experiences.
Many interns expressed their desire to follow a career path in conservation, or living more consciously and in a more sustainable way. An impactful moment during the celebration included a youth leader congratulating the parents of a stellar intern, while the intern replied, “The works we do matters in the long run.”
But, don't take our word for it, check out this great video created by one of the interns capturing the BECY experience straight from the participants themselves. We thought this was too great not to share.
Video created by Valeria Cabello, BECY Youth Leader
We are grateful to all the participants, staff and partners that make this program a reality each year touching the lives of over 150 participants since inception making the borderlands more resilient in more ways than one.
To support the BECY program or learn more click here.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician
Dragonfly Pond at the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve is a tiny pool of water most of the year, filling naturally only during the monsoon season. We maintain the water in this little pond year-round by adding water to it daily through a garden hose and timer. Sometimes the water isn't even visible from the road as a patch of cattails now surrounds it. The wildlife knows it's there, though, and on closer inspection, there is a small pool of water always available for animals passing by. This pond is frequently used by wildlife, with 75 documented wildlife trail cam visits from eight different species in June alone. To date, twenty species of animals have been identified at this pond, excluding small birds. The latest species to be added to the list is the Mexican Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata)!
This incredible little amphibian waits until the monsoon is in full swing to emerge from its underground home, where it resides for most of its life. Spadefoot refers to the spade-shaped projections on their hind legs used to dig in and out of the soft earth. Patagonia received incredibly 4.2 inches of rain in the first week of July alone.
Interestingly, it's not the rain that is believed to awaken the Mexican Spadefoot, but the sounds and vibrations created by the accompanying thunder and lightning. Once the toads are on the surface, they quickly feed on bugs and breed taking advantage of the short-lived pools of water created by the summer monsoon.
The males make a distinct call that resembles the sound of a finger running over a stiff comb. The females lay clutches of around 1,000 eggs, which quickly hatch and develop into fully morphed toads in 15 to 50 days. These fantastic creatures are only visible for such a short time that most people never get the chance to see them. Luckily, we just happened to be at the pond during the breeding phase and captured some photos for you to enjoy.
Although the Mexican Spadefoot does benefit from small stock ponds, it does not survive well in heavy development or agriculture. Amphibians face many dire challenges from disease to global climate change and the number one factor loss of habitat. At least 43% of amphibian species are currently in decline worldwide. Arizona has 25 species of native amphibians. Considering the loss of 96% of the state’s surface water over the past 100 years, these animals requiring at minimum seasonal rain are extraordinary when found. So, the next time you are out at Dragonfly Pond, listen carefully for the sounds of toads and use your binoculars to see the birds, but please do not venture too close to the water as you may have a little friend under your feet.
Mexican Spadefoot Toad Tadpoles
By: Chesed Chap, 2021 Borderlands Earth Care Youth Intern
WEEK 4: We loaded up the van and the BECY crew is headed to the Huachuca Mountains this week! In an epic crossover episode, the Patagonia and Douglas BECY crews worked together throughout the week in the Huachuca Mountians. We focused on building rock structures, which support water flow for the local quail populations. Both crews played epic games of ultimate frisbee and capture the flag, surrounded by beautiful mountain views. Many laughs were shared with our sister crew, and many naps were taken on the car rides back home.
WEEK 5: We begin at Deep Dirt Farm, learning from the farm’s founder Kate Tirion about permaculture. We toured the farm’s housing and gathering spaces, which utilized materials like handmade adobe bricks, glass bottles, and satellite dishes. Monday was spent mulching and trail building at Deep Dirt, with special guests from the University of Arizona’s MFA Creative Writing program. Our creative writing mentors joined us again on Tuesday in the Borderlands offices to lead us in poetry writing exercises, which helped us form a special presentation for our BECY graduation! Later this week, we also installed a cistern at the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center, which will harvest rainwater to support the vegetable garden.
WEEK 6: Last week! How did the summer go so fast? No time to be heartbroken though, our last week kicks off at Santa Fe Ranch. Once again joined by our friends from the University of Arizona, we return to Santa Fe Ranch to see the progress our rock structures have made since we built them in 2019. We also spend the day learning about sustainable ranching, and on our way make a quick pit stop for Sonoran hotdogs in Nogales.
Tuesday we hit the writers’ room once again to craft the graduation performance piece of a lifetime, Wednesday we build a rock rundown and install irrigation at Patagonia Union High School, and on our last day of the season we mulch our trees at the community forest at Doc Mock Park in downtown Patagonia.
Looking back at another BECY season gone by, I know exactly why I came back- for the jaguars, the zuni bowls, trees in the park that will be there for years to come, capture the flag with our sister crew, Deep Dirt, poetry workshops, Sonoran hotdogs, meeting new people and seeing new places, and making new memories.
I deeply stand by the notion that everyone should do BECY at least once in their life. While we only spend a short summer together, we spend a year in between each season knowing we did work in our community that made a difference, and it’s the best feeling in the world. So, as we wrap up another season, plant something, take a stroll through Doc Mock Park, and hopefully we’ll see you next summer.
To learn more about BECY or how to support this program please visit our website.
By: Chesed Chap, 2021 Borderlands Earth Care Youth Intern
After two seasons as an intern at Borderlands Earth Care Youth, ‘What made you join BECY?’ is a question that frequently crops up. When I first joined BECY two years ago, it was on a total whim. I think a question that better captures my love for this program is not why I initially joined, but why I came back, and hopefully the answer to that question may be the reason someone else joins- and hopefully I can provide a little insight as to what the BECY crew really does.
WEEK ONE: Two facilitators, eight interns met promptly at 6 AM to begin our season. We’re not quite bright eyed nor bushy tailed, but rather half-asleep with serious cases of bedhead. Waking up at 5 AM for work never gets easier, BECY interns just get stronger. This week we’re working in Smith Canyon, learning from watershed restoration technicians how to build rock structures that will eventually slow water from the incoming monsoon season. Slow water replenishes aquifers, which supports plant growth. Smith Canyon is a part of an important wildlife corridor that helps jaguars migrate from Mexico to Arizona- my mind is always blown knowing there might be a couple jaguars roaming around the places I’ve helped restore.
WEEK TWO: Once more in the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve, we meet in Stevens Canyon this week to continue building rock and stick structures. To start our days we crawl under a barbed wire fence to the worksite- my job is a lot of things, but it is never boring. Unscathed, we hike upstream to a head cut. Here, Zach and Eduardo lead us in building the biggest zuni bowl in BECY history. Throughout the week the interns debated on what a BECY-scented candle would smell like- in honor of week two's project and the occasionally ripe scent wafting from our hard work, we decided our candle would be called “Zuni B.O.”
WEEK 3: This week we planted 72 trees in Doc Mock park in Patagonia, a task that proved to be meaningful to all of us. This was a town-wide collaboration years in the making, and this week the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center joined the BECY crew for an awesome week planting native trees, playing ninja, and enjoying blueberry pies (thank you Mrs. Coleman!). We spotted many critters this week- a mole when we were digging a hole, and a vinegaroon, too!
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