Borderlands Restoration Network is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the work of building a restoration economy in the Borderlands with some amazing member organizations. This week we want to share some of the great work happening at our member organization: Cuenca Los Ojos.
Read on for an article from one of their recent newsletters. Read more about CLO and join their mailing list by visiting them at the following link:
Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation
What does a volunteer experience at CLO? Each visit is unique. This newsletter describes some of the ideas that Isaac of the Chaa ranch in Texas was exposed to as he did his volunteer work...
Passing on to the Next Generation
Good land management takes into account not only agriculture and cattle but also water and fish, soils and plants, insects and small and large mammals. All play an indispensable role in a healthy environment. CLO concentrates on water recovery because water supports life, so the first task was to study the stream, how water moves, where the force is strongest, where vegetation has been able to establish and is slowing the flood flows and where rock retention structures (gabions) will be needed.
The following day, three investigators from Sky Island Alliance Bryon, Stuart, and Tom came out to find a spring. They were equipped with nets, a water kit to test Ph, a pipe to measure flow, and a half globe. Looking into the globe one can find one’s position relative to the horizon line and in doing so determine the amount of sunlight that spot receives. Isaac went out with them to find the spring which they never found. I think it was a difficult task because, water was seeping out of the hills everywhere.
Next Isaac went to Mexico where for two weeks he learned how to plant trees to help restore native habitat and prevent erosion. Gerardo took Isaac with him to check the game cameras. Isaac said:- “ While we were out, we stopped by the pasture where the adult cows were being held. What a sight, hundreds of mature cows surrounded by tall grass, the animals themselves some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen”.
Previously Jose Manuel had taken Isaac to show him how we are doing restorative grazing. - “Properly handled and rotated the cows will eat invasive species, including buffel grass which is a big problem in Texas. Jose Manuel makes sure cows have enough protein which is easily observed in their manure. He does not worm or use pesticides on the cows. As a consequence down the line dung beetles are able to break up and incorporate manure into the soil and this action allows nutrients and bacteria to be available to plant life which creates a healthy environment”.
Finally, Joe Manuel took Isaac to see the water restoration and the gabion work that is the signature work of CLO. Isaac closes his report saying "it is really amazing to see how many local people are involved in the ranch and native restoration efforts in Mexico, a community of people young and old , what it used to be like in the US, but now we can only dream about. I am very inspired by how accessible the ranches appears to be to kids, scientists, anyone, who wants to come and learn”.
To see more of the great work happening at Cuenca Los Ojos, to make a tax-deductible donation, or to subscribe to their newsletter, visit their webpage at: https://cuencalosojos.org/
As the holidays quickly approach and we rush to find gifts for family and friends, Borderlands Restoration wants to remind you to shop local. Check out our plant sales at an upcoming Farmer's Market, purchase our seeds at the Gathering Grounds in Patagonia, or order from our seed catalog: www.borderlandsrestoration.org/online-store.html.
But if you do need to order other items online, remember you can support BRN when you shop through the Amazon Smile program.
Amazon donates to Borderlands Restoration Network whenever you shop using the following link: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/47-2581032
Forget to type in Smile.Amazon? Don't worry we do too. Try using the browser extension Smilematic which will automatically redirect you to AmazonSmile whenever you shop at Amazon!
And remember you can always donate directly to us to support the creation of a restoration economy in the Madrean Sky Islands on our Support page.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING HABITAT FOR NEO-TROPICAL BIRDS
Join Borderlands Restoration and Friends of Sonoita Creek for a presentation from author Martyn Kenefick on the importance of maintaining habitat for neo-tropical birds.
Martyn moved to Trinidad in 1999 and spent the next 15 years working as a bird tour leader for a number of companies, guiding in Trinidad & Tobago and many other countries. In 2007, he became the main author of the Birds of Trinidad & Tobago Field Guide, the 3rd edition of which will be published early in 2019.
Don't miss this opportunity to speak with an expert working in the Restoration Economy.
RSVP by January 4th
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Borderlands Restoration Network conference room
Address: 1 School Road, Patagonia.
Contact: Kathy Pasierb
Cell:520 604 6679
Written By: Laura Monti Sr. Fellow, Borderlands Restoration Network
Rising at dawn on scorching summer desert mornings, groups of Seri or Comcaac Indians of Sonora Mexico fan out through the dense mesquite bosques of the Sonoran Desert to collect ripe pods from the mesquite tree, following the ancient foodways of their ancestors. Adding a modern twist to their traditional open fire roasting and mortar-pestle grinding, these modern desert harvesters roast the mesquite pods in a rotating toaster and then grind them using a hammer mill- producing over 100 pounds of nutritious flour during the summer of 2018. In addition to making the traditional mesquite atole, a cool sweet cinnamon flavored beverage- the indigenous women entrepreneurs prepare a variety delicious mesquite products for their community and for sale commercially. Tortillas, mesquite empanadas filled with cactus fruit, smoothies, cookies, and pizza are sold at community festivals, and are fed to youth at school and to conservation teams working to protect mesquite and ironwood tree habitat. These mesquite foods provide a healthy alternative to junk food and soda and help to prevent diabetes in young people, which is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the community. In addition to these community nutrition benefits, the mesquite tree provides habitat for hundreds of species and nourishes the soil. Young Comcaac conservation leaders are monitoring the coastal desert forests of mesquite-ironwood and mangrove habitat to prevent over exploitation by outsiders. The social enterprise provides critical income for over 25 harvesters preventing hunger during the gaps in their summer fishing season. To support these community nutrition and conservation efforts, the flour is sold commercially in Sonora and in the U.S. The Comcaac health and conservation projects are co-sponsored by Borderlands Restoration Network, Prescott College Kino Bay Center For Cultural and Ecological Studies and the University of Arizona Next-Generation of Sonoran Desert Researchers. The flour can be purchased at Red Mountain Foods in Patagonia, Arizona.
Left: Ancient Seri mesquite grinding area in Comcaac territory.
Right: Desert Harvesters and Conservation Leaders Vilma Morales, Veronica Molina, Azucena Morales, Manuel Monroy
Written by Caleb Weaver, Borderlands Earth Care Youth Program Manager
When I asked Nick, a Patagonia Union High School student and intern with the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Program, about his experience this past summer, here’s what he said: “I’ve always cared deeply for the environment, especially in our local Patagonia area. Before working with BECY last summer, I had no idea how huge a positive impact someone as small as myself was capable of making. Now, thanks to the BECY experience, I have the knowledge, tools, and confidence to set out helping the environment with my everyday actions.”
This past summer was Nick’s first year on the Patagonia crew, although he heard about the program from his older brother who had graduated from BECY a couple years back. Along with daily educational activities – in Watershed Restoration, Ecosystem Restoration, and Community Restoration – Nick was paid to work on real habitat restoration projects alongside his peers. Under the heat of the intense June sun, during the pre-monsoon season some ecologists call Arizona’s “Dry Summer,” Nick and the Patagonia BECY crew worked in collaboration with youth from across the Arizona borderlands under extreme environmental conditions. Their goal: slow, spread, and sink rainwater runoff into the earth while simultaneously arresting erosion on working landscapes.
During the first week of the six-week program, the Nogales and Patagonia crews worked together to restore the upper reaches of their shared Sonoita Creek Watershed on the T4 Ranch. They searched the rocky hillsides (which formed from ancient debris flows) for appropriately-sized cobbles. These youth then placed the rock in drainages, allowing water slow and sink back into the earth. Later in the program, the Douglas and Patagonia crews worked alongside each other to stabilize and revegetate part of the 47 Ranch – building upon the skills they developed previously in the program. Meanwhile, the youth connected with Dennis and Deb Moroney, the humble ranch owners and land stewards who work diligently to keep the desert-adapted cattle and sheep they graze amongst the Mule Mountains accessible to Southern Arizona consumers.
While there were a few weeks of overlap between this summer’s three BECY programs, the work differs slightly between programs. The Douglas crew spent the majority of the summer restoring burned landscapes (namely Pinery Canyon, Reed Creek, and eroding drainage adjacent to Ash Spring) and improving spring-side habitat in the Chiricahua Mountains. The Nogales crew stabilized the watershed by building over 200 erosion-control structures from rock and wood at T4 Ranch, spending a few days visiting nearby farms, ranches, and nurseries. And the Patagonia crew bounced between locations, working on ranches, farms, and on contracted restoration projects in and around the town of Patagonia. The diversity of the Patagonia crew’s work was a great success within the program, and we hope to diversify work for the other crews next year.
As these programs are paid internships, each crew’s daily work depends upon source of funding. BECY has strong partnerships with the US Forest Service, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Partners for Fish & Wildlife – all of whom have supported habitat restoration work in specific locations. This past year, the Patagonia crew was hired by local landowners to address backyard erosion and biodiversity concerns. As BECY grows, we hope to diversify work locations, particularly for the Douglas and Nogales crews.
To learn more about BECY – including project details from this past summer, breakdown of funding sources, lessons learned, and plans for the future – check out the Final Report on the BECY webpage: www.borderlandsrestoration.org/becy. And feel free to contact me if you’d like to hire BECY next summer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.