By: Francesca Claverie, BRN Native Plant Program Manager
October is the ultimate fall month in southern Arizona, and as the season shifts, the weather cools, and these longer nights are a perfect time for us to appreciate our nighttime wildlife and pollinators, such as bats! Borderlands Restoration Network has been supporting nectar-feeding bats since we started collecting Agave palmeri seeds in 2013 specifically to growout and plant in habitat restoration sites for migrating Lesser long-nosed bats in the borderlands. Over the years our projects and partnerships have grown and we’ve diversified the ways we support these important pollinators. As we celebrate Bat Week 2021 we want to share our bat and agave work with you and let you know how you can become involved in supporting bats through agave restoration.
Our primary partner for our bats and agave work is Bat Conservation International (BCI). Through contracts with BCI we continue to collect agave seed and growout plants for restoration as well as expand our agave education work by connecting us with partners in Nuevo Leon, Mexico and beyond. BCI expanded its reach into Sonora by working with our partners Colectivo Sonora Silvestre (CSS), Cuenca Los Ojos and Naturalia, A.C. to encourage and support more organizations and individuals to propagate agave from seeds on both sides of the border. To date we have planted 3,774 agaves across the borderlands.
This year through support from BCI and Mountain Rose Herbs we published Agaves for Bats: From Seed to Flower Guide booklet available for download as well as free hard copies available for the cost of shipping. This booklet serves as a resource and guide for all things related to growing agaves from seed including seed collection, greenhouse construction, outplanting, agave salvage, and much more.
This year we’ve also continued to support the National Phenology Network’s Flowers for Bats program with one of our most hardworking and dedicated volunteers, John Hughes, leading expeditions to the Sands Ranch every week during agave flowering season to monitor the phenology of Agave palmeri. John has been monitoring the ranch over the last few years with help from Kathy Hughes and Laura Cleveland having collected hundreds of data points which help inform how agave nectar availability changes over the years as our climate fluctuates. Thank you for all your invaluable help John!
This season Marsella Macias is interning with our program and will be helping out and learning about our agave work in the region. Marsella is shifting careers and we’re happy to have a passionate agave aficionado stay in our community for the season helping with various projects focusing on agaves in the region.
October 2021 also marks one year since BRN and Colectivo Sonora Silvestre won the Connectivity Challenge, the inaugural competitive grant through Colorado State University’s Salazar Center with the project, Bacanora for Bats: Binational Conservation and Sustainable Agave Spirits. This project was designed to develop a sustainability certification for bacanora production through the Consejo Regulatorio de Bacanora, and establish a baseline survey of Agave palmeri populations throughout southern Arizona and northern Sonora. Organized and administered by BRN staff, this funding will support the Colectivo Sonora Silvestre to continue their policy work with the Bacanora Consejo with the agave map modeling component led by Erin Riordan, Research Associate at Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, University of Arizona, and the on the ground survey work spearheaded by BRN staff and volunteers.
This first year of the Bacanora for Bats project has been a great success with a three part stakeholder symposium meeting held over zoom connecting bat and agave conservationists to bacanora producers, resulting in a signed agreement with the Consejo and the first models of the agave mapping completed. Going forward into the last year of the project, the Bacanora Consejo will review the bylaws of the Bacanora Denomination of Origin to include conservation of the agave with the last of the mapping occurring throughout the year. The last session of the stakeholder meetings will be facilitated in person in collaboration with the Agave Heritage Festival in Tucson, AZ.
There are many ways you can get involved in our bat and agave work including through financial support, volunteering for agave plantings throughout the year and at the Borderlands Nursery & Seed nursery where we propagate agaves, or volunteer for agave phenology work through NPN’s Flower For Bats Campaign. Lastly, you can help us with our agave mapping and survey work which you can do on your own time or during our in person mapping events.
For this year’s Bat Week, we will be holding our first in person agave mapping workshop on Saturday, October 30, 8AM - 1PM at a location in SE Arizona.
Don’t forget to check out our agaves for bats resource page for all things bats and agaves.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician
The Borderlands Wildlife Preserve (BWP) and surrounding areas have been home to many peoples for thousands of years. Acknowledging this past is crucial to understanding and respecting each other. It further concedes that humanity has a place in nature and has not always had an imbalance of give and take with the natural world. At BWP, we strive to make all people feel safe and welcome in this space shared with wildlife and the land. To communicate our intentions, over the past year we have designed and installed a series of signs to explain the environment in and around BWP and the work Borderlands Restoration Network does. The final two signs (for now) are completed.
These last signs took the longest to complete because they highlight the human history of the area. The history of the borderlands is complex, disputed, and at times heartbreaking. This chronicle could never be fully explained within the context of trail signs, but we partnered with some people whose expert knowledge delivered insight and guidance for all who visit the preserve. Our deepest gratitude goes out to German Quiroga of the Patagonia Museum, Anthony Francisco Jr., and Amy R. Juan of Kom Wahia Ki:kam/Comobabi Community, Tohono O’odham for their contributions to these signs. And, a special thanks to Chris and Mary Strohm, whose generosity and patience made the signs possible. Later this fall, you will find the Indigenous history sign at the welcome kiosk, and the Patagonia history sign will be found on the Smith Canyon Loop Trail.
In addition to these two interpretive signs, the entrance sign to the preserve has gotten a revamp. Previously it said "Wildlife Corridor" and now the newly painted and welded sign says "Borderlands Wildlife Preserve." It also has a beautifully painted agave to accompany the new wording. Thank you to local welder Geroge Diethorn and local painter Rhonda Brew for the masterful work. We hope all of these signs give you one more reason to enjoy and feel welcome in Borderlands Wildlife Preserve!
By: Sophia Vásquez, Sonoran Field Course Graduate
After a historic year, we had the great opportunity to participate in the inaugural Sonoran Field Course, organized by Borderlands Restoration Network, based at Rancho San Bernardino in Agua Prieta, Sonora. The program covered a wide variety of social, environmental and economic topics from community aid, restorative economics to watershed restoration and native plant propagation.
During the course we learned about the collaborative efforts carried out through different organizations with the aim of integrating sustainable practices into economic growth with the help of community participation. Such is the example of DouglaPrieta Trabaja, a non-profit organization that works to integrate the community in sustainable agricultural practices through workshops and courses throughout the year. On the other hand, our place of stay, Rancho San Bernardino, is a clear example of success that economic activities and sustainable development go hand in hand.
Rancho San Bernardino, along with other ranches located on both parts of the border, are part of the Fundación Cuenca de los Ojos A.C. These areas are Voluntarily Declared Conservation Area (ADVC), where for more than 15 years restorative techniques of pasture management have been carried out through prescribed burns, sustainable grazing through the rotation of livestock, restoration of watersheds through construction of gabions, trenches and reforestation with native plants. In addition, we had the experience of getting into the social problems related to the border wall thanks to the work carried out by Frontera de Cristo and the collaboration with Border Arts Corridor (BAC) in the creation of a mural that links art with social perception of the native flora of the region.
Thanks to the content of the program, I obtained the necessary tools to develop and implement a project called “Revolution of Green Areas” in the future, which aims to impact, educate and increase green areas within my community through restorative techniques for the construction of structures, erosion control, as well as the collection of native plant seeds, cleaning, treatment and their propagation with the help of citizen participation.
Primera Generación de Líderes Ambientalistas en México Inspirados por BRN
Por: Sophia Vásquez, Graduada del Curso de Campo de Sonora
Después de un año histórico, tuvimos la gran oportunidad de participar en el primer Curso de Campo de Sonora, organizado por Borderlands Restoration Network, con sede en Rancho San Bernardino en Agua Prieta, Sonora. El programa cubrió una amplia variedad de temas sociales, ambientales y económicos desde ayuda comunitaria, economía restaurativa hasta restauración de cuencas y propagación de plantas nativas.
Durante el curso conocimos los esfuerzos de colaboración que se realizan a través de diferentes organizaciones con el objetivo de integrar prácticas sostenibles al crecimiento económico con la ayuda de la participación comunitaria. Tal es el ejemplo de Dougla-Prieta Trabaja, organización sin fines de lucro que trata de integrar a la comunidad en prácticas agrícolas sostenibles por medio de talleres y cursos a lo largo del año. Por otra parte, nuestro lugar de estadía, Rancho San Bernardino, es un claro ejemplo de éxito de que las actividades económicas y el desarrollo sostenible van de la mano.
Rancho San Bernardino, junto con otros ranchos ubicados en ambas partes de la frontera, forman parte de la Fundación Cuenca de los Ojos A.C. Estas áreas se encuentran Declaradas Voluntariamente a la Conservación (ADVC, por sus siglas en inglés), donde desde hace más de 15 años se realizan técnicas restaurativas de manejo de pastizales mediante quemas prescritas, pastoreo sustentable por medio de la rotación del ganado, restauración de cuencas a través de la construcción de gaviones y trincheras y reforestación con plantas nativas. Además, tuvimos la experiencia de adentrarnos a los problemas sociales relacionados con el muro fronterizo gracias al trabajo que realiza Frontera de Cristo y a la colaboración con Border Arts Corridor (BAC) en la creación de un mural que vincula el arte con la percepción social de la flora nativa de la región.
Gracias al contenido del programa obtuve las herramientas necesarias para desarrollar e implementar a futuro un proyecto denominado “Revolución de áreas verdes”, que tiene como objetivo impactar, educar y aumentar las áreas verdes dentro de mi comunidad a través de técnicas restaurativas de construcción de estructuras de control de erosión, así como la colecta de semillas de plantas nativas, limpieza, tratamiento y su propagación con ayuda de la participación ciudadana.
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