By Lynn Davison, BRN Board Chair
When people ask me why I am so invested in our work at Borderlands Restoration Network, the answers come easily. It all starts with the land, the Madrean Sky Islands of the southwest US and northern Mexico. E. O. Wilson includes our region in the top 10 for preservation in the Americas due to its remarkable biodiversity. The land and the multitude of plants and animals that live here are currently at risk due to the combination of climate change, overgrazing, and impacts of extractive industries. It is so important now to actively restore land, water, and habitat and to protect critical lands from future degradation. We know how to do that! If you doubt it, just consider what has happened at Cuenca Los Ojos, our Network partner, over the last 30 years…..return of amazing riparian areas with year-round water and lush habitats to support the biodiversity our region is known for.
For me, however, the real hook is the combination of restoring the land AND supporting the cultures and economic health of the people who live on it. At Borderlands, this is not either or, it’s both. Our mission is focused on building a restoration based economy in the borderlands….we strive to be an environmental organization, a cultural organization, and an economic development organization. While this path may be more complicated, it is the most respectful of the histories and cultures of the people who have been here for many centuries. It is also far more sustainable over time.
Our region, along the US/Mexico border, is a very visible stage for the world to watch the impacts of political gamesmanship on the lives of innocent people. For many, this is the only lens they see the borderlands through. We are so much more. Borderlands Restoration Network has a big vision, strong partner organizations, a remarkable combination of seasoned leaders and smart committed young staff. and an organizational structure that is both efficient and capable of securing earned income, public and private grants and contracts, private investments and donations. Our business model is grounded in partnerships and, as a bi-national organization, that includes people and organizations on both sides of the border. We place a significant focus on education with the goal of supporting the next generation of leaders to expand and carry on the work. We have a great reputation with the public agencies, private foundations, and individuals that support out work.
I am proud to be part of the Borderlands team. We are already making a real difference and will do much more as we increase the number of people and organizations that support our work. There are many ways to provide support:
Written By: Francesca Claverie, Native Plant Materials Manager
There are so many types of bats in the world that it’s overwhelming. In fact, out of the entire diversity of mammals on the planet a quarter of them are bat species. There are almost 30 species of bats in Arizona and all of them eat insects except for two nectar feeders, Choeronycteris mexicana (Mexican long-tongued bat) and Leptonycteris yerbabuenae, (lesser long nosed bat). This means nectar feeding bats are little nighttime plant pollinators that follow the blooming cycles of mostly succulent blooms like agave and cacti from Mexico in the winter, to the very southern tips of the U.S. in the summer. The Sky Islands of the Madrean Archipelago, here in southern Arizona, are considered important areas in need of conservation to support pollinator populations, specifically the lesser long nosed bat. This bat was recently taken off the Endangered Species list even though its nectar source is stressed. Agave is an important bat food source in this grassland region that faces continued threats such as climate change, land development, and wild harvest of agaves for Bacanora production.
Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) is working on many aspects of the agave threats through partnerships with multiple organizations and volunteers. BRN’s first endeavor is with the National Phenology Network and their “Flowers for Bats” campaign. This campaign tackles the climate change stressor to agaves by recruiting volunteers to track the flowering cycle of the native agaves in our region. Here in Santa Cruz County the important agave species for bat nectar are Agave parryi and Agave palmeri.
As the global temperatures change so do plants and many adapt by flowering earlier. Scientists are worried that bat migration schedules won’t be able to keep up with the change, meaning thousands of migrating bats will be going hungry as they hit the grasslands and only find agaves that have already flowered and are already starting to seed. Ways that you can help are by joining the monitoring effort as a volunteer tracking agave flowering times, and by keeping your hummingbird feeders out at night to feed the bats as well as the birds.
BRN’s biggest agave collaboration is with Bat Conservation International (BCI) and the #agavesforbats campaign which is supporting on the ground restoration of regionally sourced agaves from seeds and pups in the southwest U.S. and northwestern Mexico. These restoration efforts are meant to balance out the destruction of agaves for industrial and residential land use in the U.S. and the wild harvest of agaves for Bacanora (the regional mescal produced from agaves in Sonora), which is sold within Sonora as well as all over the United States and is increased by U.S. demand for this product.
The BR Native Plant Materials Program (NPM) is collecting seed and propagating thousands of agaves for restoration. The NPM includes the Seed Lab, a seed storage and processing facility, and the Native Plant Nursery, a plant propagation facility. The NPM is staffed by Allegra Mount, Francesca Claverie, Perin McNelis, Travis Gerckens, Aishah Lurry, and Andrea Fleder, all residents of Patagonia. The nursery is ideal for producing the agaves for this project due to their proven track record of previous agave production, and ability to track and curate plant material accessions and propagation records. The NPM is also organizing outreach efforts in collaboration with BCI in Sonora, Mexico by partnering with Colectivo Sonora Silvestre, a group of students and alumni from the University of Sonora in Hermosillo to organize two workshops this fall and winter. One will be aimed at communicating the threats and issues of agave and bat restoration in the U.S. and Sonora and the other workshop will start a dialogue with Bacanora producers and agave growers in Sonora to promote agave and bat conservation.
Through Borderlands Restoration Network’s partnerships and collaboration there is hope to make a difference in the long-term availability of agaves on the landscape to support the bats as well as all their other important ecological functions. If you wish to support these efforts you can donate money to Bat Conservation International’s Agaves For Bats campaign and to Borderlands Restoration Network, volunteer your time planting agaves and helping at our NPM volunteer days, or plant many native agaves in your yard and keep your hummingbird feeders full during bat migration. To learn more about any aspects of this work you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Grace Fullmer, Community Engagement
This past weekend, the Patagonian Fall Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary. Through rainstorms and sun showers, Borderlands Restoration Network was there to partake in the annual festivities. Mixed in with vendors selling paintings, wild west literature and tie-dye apparel, we were sharing our mission with folks from all corners of SE Arizona. Sitting next to us was the collaborative, Coronado Outdoors, a partnership between Sky Island Alliance and the Coronado National Forest, that promotes volunteerism and stewardship of public lands in southern Arizona.
Located on the other side of the festival grounds, our Native Plants Materials program was selling tables-full of colorful native plants hosted by the brightly adorned, Francesca.
Undoubtedly, the most attractive piece of our table was the Bats of Arizona poster that stood tall next to planters sewed with agave seeds, maps of bat migration, seed balls and fresh homemade cookies (which may have also been a big highlight). The common phrase of the weekend was, “I have bats at my house.” People came by to chat about the bats that slurp their hummingbird feeders dry, one fella saying he went through 8 lbs. of sugar every month the bats were around, and another saying they used a total of 40 gallons of hummingbird nectar to feed both hummers and bats. Many were surprised by what they learned about bat migration and their diminishing food sources (one being the agave), and were always curious as to how they could help support our Arizona bat populations. Each person who came by walked away with not only newfound bat knowledge, but also an idea as to who Borderlands Restoration Network is, and the work we are doing in our community and beyond. Many times the conversation would end with a, “thank you for your efforts, it is so important.” Then they would depart with a happy smile, maybe because the sun was finally shining, or because the rains continued to nurture our Patagonian soils.
Written By: Francesca Claverie, Native Plant Nursery Manager
We are smack dab in the middle of fall, meaning you can either curl up with a hot beverage or plant and seed wild natives into your landscape. The Borderlands Restoration Native Plant Materials Program votes for the latter and set up a few wonderful options to help you do so. Our last plant/seed sale events of the year will be in Patagonia during the Fall Festival of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday October 12-14th from 10am-3pm and in Tucson on Saturday, November 3rd from 10am-2pm at The Garden Kitchen in south Tucson, AND we have a brand new native plant and seed catalogue available!
We will have a smattering of trees, shrubs, forbs, and seed mixes available at the sales and if you’re interested in anything in particular, email us and we can be sure to bring them to you. Fall is a fantastic time to plant and although it’s tough to compete with a rainy summer monsoon planting in the higher elevations of the Sky Islands, it’s arguably the most important time to plant in Tucson and some of the lower elevations. Similarly to summer, mulching is critical to planting container plants in fall but instead of worrying so much about the ground desiccating, the mulch is also helpful for insulating the roots and base of the plant from the cold. This year in particular is a great time for a fall planting to take advantage of these hurricane rains, although any new container plants should still be watered in and monitored for dryness.
For seeding in the fall mulching is also of utmost importance, although you might not see many of the species germinate until the spring or summer monsoon season, depending on what kind of irrigation schedule, or lack thereof you implement. A fall planting is a very natural time to seed since that’s when most of the seeds fall in the wild, although protecting them from predation is critical and mulching can protect seed from birds and insects while also letting them go through a natural cold stratification to improve germination of some species.
Lastly, we are thrilled to introduce you to our new catalogue. There will be other posts and articles highlighting this newest publication, and thanks to the direction of our Seed Lab and Native Plant Materials Program manager, Allegra Mount, it looks better than ever. The entire Native Plant Materials team worked hard to put this together and over one hundred native plant species are listed and described with beautiful photos and material type availability. The pdf of the catalogue is available online for free although it’s a hefty document to download. We only printed a few full catalogues, and they’ll be around for viewing at any of our offices and sale locations, and have condensed versions of the catalogue available for free. If you’d like to purchase a full catalogue we also have some option available at our online store where you can buy a package deal of a bumper sticker, catalogue, and seed. Check it out at borderlandsrestoration.org/online-store or email email@example.com with questions or any orders. Checkout some beautiful photos of the catalogue and our plants below:
Written by: Perin McNelis, Native Plant Materials Assistant Manager
BRN’s Art+Ecology workshop series is already halfway done! The October edition was a fantastic fiber arts workshop with Jesus Garcia of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Jesus came to the Arts Center and taught the 5-8th grade classes from Patagonia Middle School about ethnobotany in the borderlands and how to process native plant fibers, as well as other natural and recycled synthetic materials, to make cordage.
After some amazing demonstrations of rope-making with horse and human hair, plastic bags, and fibers from different plant species, students tried their hands at creating cordage. The kids learned about the caustic nature of Agves leaves, or pencas, and how roasting the leaves over fire breaks down these toxic chemicals so that they don’t burn your skin when processing. The students pounded, scraped and washed yucca and fan palm fibers, then used a couple of different techniques to twist the fibers into strong ropes, using tools and their own hands. Some students created bracelets that they wore home and others were very excited about the survival skills aspect of rope-making.
Getting creative with Agave and Yucca fibers was a great follow-up to what we learned about nectar-feeding bats and growing agaves for habitat restoration at our last workshop, when BRN Native Plant Materials program manager, Francesca Claverie, came to the Arts Center and had the students sow Agave palmeri seed for habitat restoration for the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat.
The big take-away from the last couple of workshops has been about the interdependence and interconnections of the members in an ecological community, and how healthy ecosystems benefit all parties- in this case, nectar-feeding bats, humans, Agave populations, and the soil on which we all depend. Interdisciplinary programming like this can provide multiple nodes for connecting diverse learners to their home landscapes. This is so important for encouraging a culture of land stewardship and ushering in a new generation of artists, plant lovers, and conservationists.
BRN thanks our partner for this project, the Patagonia Creative Arts Association, and our funder, the Patagonia Regional Community Fund.