Written By: Esquer Robles, Jesus Antonio; Aaron Flesch; Trevor Hare, David Seibert, Kurt Vaughn
The Madrean Sky Islands region of northwest Mexico provides the northernmost wintering habitats, a diverse set of breeding habitats, critical stopover areas and migratory corridors for >100 species of Neotropical migratory birds (NMB) including the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Bell's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Wilson’s Warbler. Conservation efforts focusing on these species and their habitats are often stymied by major scientific, social, economic, and logistical challenges since NMB require wintering, stop-over, and breeding habitats that are separated by thousands of kilometers and often span national, jurisdictional, and other physical boundaries.
Modern unsustainable land use practices, especially overgrazing, can negatively affect both the quality and extent of habitats important to NMB. Moreover, because the vast majority of lands that are essential to NMB are privately owned, especially in Mexico strategies that improve conservation efforts on private lands are needed. Unfortunately, the people responsible for the management of these critical areas rarely understand their ecological value nor do they have the resources to sustainably manage them. To address those challenges and attempt to realize NMB conservation at landscape scales, approaches that integrate protection, management, restoration, education, and monitoring are needed.
Starting in 2012, BR and its partners began a multifaceted effort to integrate existing education, outreach, and research programs with targeted habitat restoration of degraded riparian areas with the potential to support cottonwood-willow forests, which have been documented to be critical habitat for NMB. With the financial support from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) via the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA), we collaborated with local landowners, citizens, and volunteers to construct cattle exclusion fencing and erosion control along >25 km of riparian areas, which protected 569 ha in Northern Sonora, Mexico. Complementarily to this effort we restored over 600 ha of riparian habitat in the adjacent Southeastern Arizona borderlands. In order to
monitor the effectiveness of the restoration treatments and guide future efforts, we gathered baseline data on NMB and vegetation in restoration treatments and nearby control areas.”
With some additional support from the USFWS we are continuing this work while actively developing new relationships with landowners, ejido members, and academic institutions to foster cooperative management and restoration projects on private lands. This renewed effort includes the continued maintenance of existing exclosures, the enhancement of existing restoration infrastructure and the extension of our efforts with an additional 16 km of riparian areas in the same border regions of Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona. In this phase we now have restoration agreements with 10 landowners to restore 11 sites: one on the private ranch El Aribabi; one on the ejido Santa Cruz; four in the San Lázaro community (Ejido Miguel Hidalgo) and five in the Milpillas community (ejido Miguel Hidalgo). While we continue to monitor the efficacy of restoration treatments on NMB populations and the recovering riparian vegetation we are working with local conservation educators to expanding our outreach activities. We are currently developing educational strategies to teach local students, community members and landowners about the region’s unique biodiversity through trainings, workshops and presentations, while concurrently offering field classes, internships, and job training for university students studying biology, land management, and ecotourism, and by developing and disseminating web-based and print resources in Spanish.
Our long-term goals with regard to this project are to 1) improve the quality and extent of riparian vegetation and habitats for locally breeding and migratory populations of NMB and other wildlife in the Madrean Sky Islands region, 2) increase transboundary habitat connectivity for NMB and other wildlife by working on both sides of the international border, 3) increase the knowledge and capacity of local human populations in the region to effectively manage and restore habitat for NMB on private lands, 4) monitor the effects of restoration and management efforts in a manner than guides future efforts, and 5) reach those goals by fostering relationships based on trust and credibility with local human communities.
We hope this project will enhance prospects for NMB conservation in North America by improving the capacity of local ranchers to better manage their grazing lands, while restoring important riparian habitats for migratory birds in the border region and educating and engaging rural communities in Mexico about the ecological values of their local watersheds.
CSS members at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Michoacán, México
Written By: Lea Ibarra (CSS) and Kurt Vaughn (BRN)
The Colectivo Sonora Silvestre (CSS) is an independent group of biology students from the University of Sonora and engineering students from the Technological University of Cananea focused on ecosystem conservation in Sonora. Within the Colectivo there are three main groups that work in the state of Sonora; the Alianza Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Alliance), Grupo de Exploración de Manantiales en Sonora (Sonora Springs Exploration Group) and el Escuadrón de Rastreo de Fauna Silvestre (Wildlife Tracking Squad). We have gotten more familiar with their activities since three members of the CSS came up to Patagonia to participate in BRN’s Field School this year.
This self-organized, and largely self-funded, student collective is doing incredible work from wildlife monitoring, to quality assessments of natural spring ecosystems and documenting the presence of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) populations in Sonora. In addition, they are developing an environmental education program focused on habitat conservation in rural and urban schools along the Rio Sonora. This education effort has the twin goals of promoting biodiversity conservation and strengthening relationships between communities and their local flora and fauna.
The group hopes to continue its current projects of documenting the incredible biodiversity of Northern Sonora and hopes to expand its efforts to contribute to local environmental education and promote the sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity. If you would like to supporting the work of these amazing students please consider giving a US tax-deductible donation via BRN’s portal (http://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/donate.html), please make sure to include a note that says “CSS”.
Members of the Sonora Springs Exploration Group performing a spring assessment on Cuenca de los Ojos’ property Rancho San Bernardino, Sonora.
The Wildlife Tracking Squad documenting a bobcat roadkill site on Highway 14 in Sonora.
After a biological inventory in the Sierra Los Ajos, Bavispe, Sonora.
Borderlands Restoration Network
presents an evening with
Food from the Radical Center: Healing our Land and Communities
EXCLUSIVE BOOK SIGNING EVENT
FOOD · DRINKS · MUSIC
under the Tucson Evening Sky
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29th, 5:30–7:30 P.M.
946 W Mission Ln, Tucson, AZ 85745
Suggested Donation $20 at the door
R.S.V.P. requested by September 24th: info@BorderlandsRestoration.org or (520) 216 – 4148
Join Borderlands Restoration Network, a nonprofit located in Patagonia, AZ dedicated to building a regional restoration-based economy in the Arizona – Sonora borderlands, for an evening with author and famed ethnobiologist, Gary Nabhan. Copies of his newly released book Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Lands & Communities will be available for purchase and signing.
Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3
…working together to reconnect wildlife, land and people by promoting a restoration economy in our unique Arizona/Sonora borderlands region…
Nicole Luna describes her final week of work with the BECY 2018 crew.
Five weeks in and BECY only gets better and hotter! I am so proud of the group’s work ethic, as each week passes we only get closer and more comfortable with one another. We even play jokes on each other, which makes the hard-hot sweating working days go by quick and filled with laughter. As the week begins we start by going to Ash Springs where we removed horehound a small, invasive herb that comes from a member of the mint family. After removing all the horehound, we placed a few native plants in moist areas for the following day.
Then we had our special visitor, Rebekah, a wildlife biologist who introduced herself and talked about the exciting things she gets to do in her job as we break for lunch. She had so many fascinating stories, specifically one that caught everyone’s attention was when she had the experience to hold a bear cup, where she and a crew went inside a cave and changed the monitor around the bear’s neck as they tranquilized it. Having Rebekah, a very outgoing person with very positive and energetic attitude made the group more interested in wildlife and open minded to the different things there is to do for wildlife and make an impact in the future. And as much as we enjoyed listening to her incredible stories we had to pause it for the next day as we headed back to work.
The entire group took turns watering the plants and as we waited for our turn we doubled checked for any horehound we might of missed. With a couple of minutes left on the clock we finished watering all the native plants for the third time and started gathering any tools we brought up and made our way back to the trucks. We finally arrived to the trucks and closed the working day with our usual debrief, where we all shared a rose, bud, and a thorn. For the rest of the evening we just marinated and prepared ourselves for tomorrow.
Tuesday’s chilly morning arrived and one by one we woke up to the sound of our alarms to a very beautiful mountain view at Southwestern Research Station (SWRS). We prepared ourselves and packed all our camping gear to head out to Ash Spring. We had no idea what was waiting for us at Ash Spring but when we arrived we saw the most flawless person I know, which most of the group was looking forward to meet, Caleb aka hippie Jesus. But little did we know we had something bigger waiting for us. As we gathered in a circle, BOOM, there they were sitting behind hippie Jesus truck, more native plants. We had to hike up a very treacherous trail where we barely made it to the ponds. As each of us would carry three to four small plants we had our daredevils Manny and Alan carrying a big plant around 25 to 30 pounds and Ismael and Ben with another. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the ponds, but oh boy let me tell you it was a hike all right. After having breaks in between the hike we had enough energy to arrive.
After that breath-taking hike and a long break at the ponds, we started getting our hands dirty. We began by planting the plants from the day before as Caleb placed the new plants soon to be planted around the rest of the ponds. As we made it through plant we came to an end, and as we took a water break Rebekah and Caleb walked up the watershed and saw pretty bad erosion going on. So, then we split into smaller groups and started working on rock structures. In total we built around nine of them and two stickchera. Every group did an amazing job with the structures but the one rock structure we where most proud off and that could have had a huge impact in the future, was the zuni bowl we all put a hand in by collecting rocks but the work Steph, Ismael, and Caleb did, especially was outstanding and beautiful and well made.
Even though we had a tough hike coming up, overall it was an amazing day. We made each other laugh, and before ending the day with a debrief, Rebekah talked about the different categories you could experience in the forest service and then gave us a land manager’s guide about maintaining and improving habitat for hummingbirds in Arizona and New Mexico. It was so sweet of her, although we were sad that it was the last day she would work with us, but we said our goodbyes and went home since we had Wednesday off for being 4th of July and would work Thursday and Friday.
Thursday and Friday were both similar working days. Starting off with Thursday the group met with Lily and Caleb at the Rucker Canyon camping sight where from there we headed to Hermitage Spring to do some planting. Before we got to work we played an awesome game of capture the flag, a very intense game that woke everybody up to be ready to work. We started working and did the same process for planting as we did on Monday and Tuesday, we each picked a plant and finished very quick. Then we moved on to our next location, Reed Creek, which was so exciting because we were going to plant in the ponds BECY helped to build last year which was a hustle but a very fun experience. So anyways as we arrived the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew was working on some fencing so we minded our own business and started carrying plants to the ponds. It was about noon, when we finished carrying all the plants and broke for lunch. We had about an hour and a half to finish working, so we left most of the planting for Friday.
The group finished planting on Friday and finished the day with our debrief and talked about the work we would be doing the following week. Overall this week was the best week, not only because we took a break from working with rock structures, but because had the chance to work with the ecosystem by planting all these amazing native plants that will help many habitats. Which is a cool thing to work on because while working with erosion control for most of the program and spending a whole week planting we were able to learn to I.D. plants that are in the borderlands and the usage these plants have for people as much as for wildlife.
As each year passes BECY only gets better, and having a team as amazing as this year’s is even better. I only hope it continues to expand and help restore wildlife as much as we can.
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