By: Audrey Rader, BRN Watershed Restoration Program Manager
Borderlands Restoration Network is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Eduardo A Gracia and Gregory Decker as Restoration Technicians for our Watershed and Habitat Restoration Program. Eduardo and Gregory will help carry out our vision to restore running water to our streams, protect our delicate riparian areas and spectacular grassland flora and fauna.
In the coming year, they will aid in invasive plant management projects supported by the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the United States Fish and Wildlife; install erosion control structures in collaboration with Southern Arizona Quail Forever and the National Forest Foundation; enhance pollinator habitat through support by the Frances Seebe Charitable Trust, and the United States Forest Service; collect seed for future restoration projects; and provide ecological landscaping and rainwater harvesting services to members of our community. Gregory and Eduardo will be reporting to Watershed Restoration Program Manager, Audrey Rader.
A lifelong resident of arid landscapes, Eduardo earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology with an emphasis in terrestrial natural resources from the Universidad de Sonora. While spending many years exploring Sonora, from desert to grasslands and majestic sierras to the ocean, Eduardo became involved in projects related to wildlife conservation and habitat restoration. Living in the borderlands, Eduardo has fostered a genuine passion for uniting Mexico and the United States through his work outdoors, where he feels that his actions contribute to the development of a better world.
Gregory also grew up in the arid southwest, hailing from Douglas, AZ. Over the past half a decade, Gregory has gained an abundance of outdoors experience with the Student Conservation Association, the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Arizona Conservation Corps as a restoration technician and wildland firefighter. Gregory enjoys working outdoors and values the sense of satisfaction he gleans from making an actionable difference for our Sky Island landscapes every day.
Both Eduardo and Gregory have established themselves on our team as talented and passionate restoration practitioners. We are so grateful to have them on board!
By: Cholla Nicoll, BRN Wildlife Intern
The family Cervidae consists of what we commonly call deer, species like the white-tailed deer, moose and elk. Borderlands Wildlife Preserve (BWP) provides ideal habitat for two species of deer; the white-tailed deer and the mule deer. Deer survival in Arizona is tied to available forage which depends on annual rains to flourish. In drought years, areas with permanent sources of water are vital to the survival of Arizona’s deer species. Dragonfly Pond located on Foxtail Lane adjacent to BWP provides a year round source of water to animals such as deer and we frequently catch pictures of them enjoying a bite of lush foliage.
As far back as 1887 deer in Arizona were recognized as needing protection. At this time the first established hunting seasons were instituted. BWP does not allow hunting (or dogs), which allows deer a much needed space to reproduce under limited pressures from human behaviors. Viewing deer is most successful at dawn and dusk. Keep a far distance. If the animal seems nervous or moves away you are too close. Bring binoculars and leave dogs at home for the best chance of viewing deer. Mule deer and white-tailed deer are best distinguished by their tails. White-tailed deer have broad long tails of a brownish color, mule deer have a shorter narrower tail with a black tip at the end.
Directions to the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve:
By: Jake Paun, BECY Intern
My introduction to Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) was in 2015 after applying for their pilot year of the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Institute in Douglas, Arizona. I, then 16, attended my interview in formal attire from spit-shined loafers to a silk-tie and was interviewed by a kind-hearted, long-haired gentleman wearing a flannel long-sleeved shirt and hiking sandals. Since then, I have carried on multiple positions and am currently a long-term intern under this same gentleman.
Over the years, Borderlands Restoration Network has been more than a place of work to me – it has been a place of belonging, a place of learning and growth, and an escape from the anthropological jungle of our current society. I have strengthened physically, mentally, and emotionally while providing rehabilitation efforts for the delicate landscape many of us call home. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be who or where I am today without ever having answered questions with this gentleman 5 years ago to become one of the first of many BECY Interns.
I devote many of my successes, friendships, awards, knowledge, dreams, and goals to the programming and people I have met during my involvement with BRN. With that being said, I will soon be moving on to my dream career of protecting our Nation’s borders as an Agricultural Specialist with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). As I have learned from my involvement over the last 5 years, it is important to not only protect our immediate landscape, but also our nation as a whole.
It has been a joy to trade loafers and ties for lace-up boots and bandanas, and now it is time for me to trade it for tactical boots and a badge. I cannot thank BRN and their staff, collaborators, and partners enough for allowing me to find this goal within me over the last 5 years I did not know existed and feel ever confident in continuing to fill their mission of supporting a healthy and vibrant borderland ecosystem as we know and love.
For those of you who have not spent enough time with this kind-hearted gentleman to know him by the clues I have used to describe him, this gentleman is Caleb Weaver, the trailblazer who allowed me and countless other small-town youth to share this opportunity.
By Cholla Nicholl, BRN Wildlife Intern
In May and October the bird lovers among us celebrate International Migratory Bird Day. These special days have been set aside to recognize the unique and still mysterious journeys many of our feathered friends take each year. Created in 1993 and now organized by Environment for the Americas, International Migratory Bird Day focuses primarily on conservation and education. The conservation of migrating birds has been a priority for Americans for over a century.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed back in 1918 in response to over hunting and poaching birds. Birds at the time were killed primarily for use of their feathers in fashionable hats. Today the MBTA protects 1,093 bird species along with their eggs and nests. This powerful law now includes four international conservation treaties with Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia. This international effort to protect migrating birds has prevented extinctions and saved billions of birds worldwide.
The Borderlands Wildlife Preserve that sits just north of Patagonia, AZ serves as a much needed refuge for migrating birds. Habitat restoration work taking place within the preserve includes vital and permanent wildlife drinking stations. These drinking stations are monitored with trail cameras to ensure they are a safe and effective area for wildlife to frequent. On rare occasion a photo of a migrating bird is captured in the vicinity of the drinking stations. This spring a Gray Hawk just happened to enjoy a cool drink at one of those monitored sites.
The Gray Hawk (Buteo plagiatus ) is one of the many species of birds protected by the MBTA. Patagonia, AZ is located at the northernmost range for the migratory Gray Hawk. The Gray Hawk prefers to live in riparian areas with permanent sources of water. Riparian areas in Arizona are exceedingly rare and we are truly privileged to have a glance at this species who primarily resides south of the US/Mexico border.
Viewing the Gray Hawk should be done with a very respectful distance as according to the Audubon Society website “no more than 50 pairs nest north of Mexico”. Protecting these amazing and beautiful animals requires more of a migration then perhaps a marathon. Rather than just a race to a finish line we need movement followed by rest and creation followed by more movement.
Borderlands Wildlife Preserve is happy to provide one of those much-needed places of recuperation for both migrating birds, and their conservationists.
Visit our website and check out our other activities and information for Migratory Bird Day where we turn our attention to another migratory bird, the hummingbird!
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 fostering a restorative economy which supports livelihoods of people living in the borderlands. At BRN, this is not either or, it’s both. We are an ecologically based organization that also directly contributes to the restorative economy and partners with others in the region to collectively advance an equitable and inclusive economy that protects our precious natural resources and builds on the history, cultures, and skills of our people.
Our business model is grounded in partnerships within the tri-national region where we work. 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 strong reputation with the public agencies, private foundations, and individuals that support out work.
I am proud to be part of the Borderlands team. The current coronavirus pandemic has given us a real incentive to expand our work. The world economy, based on growth at any cost, devours the earth and creates greater and greater inequities between a small concentration of the very rich and the growing number of the very poor, a perfect condition for a pandemic. We can and must do better.
By: Cholla Nicoll, BRN Wildlife Intern
It seems that the only thing on everyone’s minds these days is a pesky little virus. Current events are not just overwhelming they are humbling in a tragic manner. With humility comes wisdom. Wisdom tells us to slow down, stop moving and remember what’s most important. It’s important to recognize we are a part of the animal community. Our shared biology means we are subject to the same struggles they face. In these times of climate change and disease the facade that humans are more powerful, or somehow separate from nature is rapidly dissipating.
The use of wildlife trail cameras allows us to glimpse into a world that few of us modern humans ever see. Our perception of who and what lives on a landscape can be dramatically off base as wildlife has adapted to avoid our presence. The Borderlands Wildlife Preserve provides a wonderful opportunity to view wildlife in a non-invasive manner using trail cameras. Trail cameras have been placed throughout the preserve and are now being used to collect data on what species frequent the area. In the near future many of these images will be utilized to educate the public on the importance of our animal neighbors.
Since school is out, on one of these such days I allowed my 9 year-old daughter to join me. We climbed trees and talked to flowers and learned that sometimes the best days are not the days we see something extraordinary, but the days we have time to just be free. This freedom is the gift we give to our wildlife community each time we employ technologies enabling our choice to be unseen.
By: Audrey Rader, BRN Watershed Program Manager
Winding roads, less than two thousand feet of elevation gain, and a short hike brought us to a legacy-mine in Mansfield Canyon. This area was historically home to oaks, junipers, pines, and a diverse understory of grasses and forbs. Looking out across the landscape, one can still see breathtaking remnants of these populations. Mining activity removed much of this vegetation though, leaving it vulnerable to erosion and invasion by non-native plant species. That's where we come in.
Borderlands Restoration Network has an agreement with Coronado National Forest helping provide native seed, planting, watering, and weed control services for the treatment area. On the day in question, we had arrived to remove some weeds that were dominating the site. The primary weeds on the landscape were stinkgrass (Eragrostis cilianensis) and Indian lovegrass (Eragrostis pilosa). Both stinkgrass and Indian lovegrass are from Eurasia and Africa and have been introduced to nearly all of North America. These annual grasses have another thing in common: both readily take root in disturbed areas and have the ability to disperse quickly and broadly. Perhaps most memorably, according to one crew member's field guide, crushed stinkgrass smells like cockroaches. We'll take the field guide's word on that one.
Invasive plants spread quickly, can form monocultures (lowering biodiversity), and can displace native plants. Our hope is that removing weeds will lessen the likelihood of these plants contributing seed to the seed bank, reduce their spread, and make room for native grasses, forbs, and shrubs in this disturbed area. Over the course of three days, the crew treated the entire site, just one small step of many in restoring the treatment area to a trajectory of recovery and resiliency.
By: Jake Paun, BECY Intern
It is hard to argue that after being involved with the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Institute over the last five years, first as an Intern with the BECY Douglas crew in 2015, then Youth Leader in 2016, and a Facilitator in 2017 and 2019, that I do not have a soft place in my heart for this program and what it has done for me and continues to do for the youth of my hometown. What keeps me coming back is the support from those who run the program and their drive to not only support the environment, but the youth growing up in a small town, such as myself.
What I hope to gain from this internship is the understanding of coordinating projects and what goes into such planning as the Madrean Archipelago is one of if not the most diverse ecoregion in the world! As an up-and-coming cattle rancher, I understand now that I must take care of the land that takes care of me and my herd, therefore land health is of the highest concern. Being a part of BECY over the last few years I have met many people who share the same interests and I hope to continue to meet similar people throughout the course of this internship who I can learn from and whose guidance I can implement throughout my life.
With all of this being said, my ultimate goal is to be able to share my success stories with fellow BECY graduates. I can say with no doubt I would not be who or where I am today without ever entering BECY and I hope my involvement this spring will only multiply the chance for further successful summers. Our goal as a program is to protect the environment, and how better to achieve that than to plant a seed (pun intended) within youth to be passionate about our mission and proceed to receive degrees in areas or perform academic research on topics covered throughout the program and become future conservationists?
By the end of the program this summer, I hope that we instill passions for the land in each of the interns, leaders, and facilitators and their passion is spread amongst their family and friends, and hopefully the community. Many community members say that Douglas is a town that is afraid of change. While I don’t expect the whole town to participate in Global Warming rallies in Washington D.C., simple improvements that have been acquired by our graduates through their summer program is a great starting point.
By: Allegra Mount, BRN Seed Curator
After 5 years learning and growing with Borderlands Restoration Network, I’m excited to be moving on to further my career working with land and community healing. As I prepare to leave the Borderlands for a long travel break before pursuing further education, I am reminded of all the things that make this place special and how they have formed my sense of compassion, duty, and community. I’d like to share some of the things that have meant the most to me with you here:
1. The Plants
The Madrean Archipelago eco-region – made up of “sky island” mountain ranges separated by “seas” of desert – has been a sublime locale for me to cut my teeth as a botanist. The sheer number of individual species (well over 4,000 plant species!) makes this an excellent place to study plants that can be found all across the American West. Working alongside other passionate botanists, horticulturists, and plant lovers, I have cultivated a deep empathy for the plant beings with whom we share this space (especially my favorites, the desert grasses!). I have known many of them from seed, to sprout, to plant, and then on to their role as healer of landscapes and human bodies. It has been a profound experience that I will always treasure.
2. The People
As for the human beings that move through these spaces, this region again does not disappoint. The complexity and uniqueness of the current era’s Borderlands community is one of the greatest I have ever experienced, right next to the sense of compassion among its residents. Living in a tri-national space where joy and laughter stand right alongside historic and current traumas nurtures a community of individuals able to stand uniquely present, acknowledging the past and working hard towards a vision of an inclusive and thriving Borderlands. Living here, you have so many role models of strong, persistent, and compassionate people surrounding you that you are inspired to believe in your own strength, as well.
My time in the Borderlands has been illuminating, demanding, and enriching in so many ways. It has engaged every part of my being; head, heart, and hands. I’m so grateful for everyone I’ve met through this job, from passionate restoration practitioners and justice workers all over the southwest to the thousands of plant and animal beings I’ve spent time with, and I am excited to take all these connections and experiences forward with me into the next chapter of my life. Thank you, BRN!
By: Perin McNelis, BRN Assistant Manager Nursery & Seed Curation
One of the ways they do this is through their “Amigos del Maguey y la Biodiversidad” project, which is a nursery on ejido land (land that was redistributed or returned to pueblos and their people after the Mexican Revolution to be collectively owned and managed for farming) that produces agaves of twenty plus varieties from seed both collected and sourced from a community of producers.
Rezpiral has also experimented with an agroforestry approach to planting agaves in which the young agaves from the nursery are transplanted into lands that have not been clear cut or leveled so that there is a mixture of agave species growing amongst trees and shrubs as they would in the natural landscapes surrounding the agricultural fields.
The book describes the first phase of Rezpiral’s experiments with starting a nursery and planting with an agroforestry approach. BRN has been approached numerous times by various groups interested in learning how to start up nurseries for growing agaves in the US/Mexico borderlands, so we have realized there is demand for workshops and a printed resource that details seed collection, propagation and planting methods that can provide an iterative framework for restoration practitioners, land managers, and spirit producers, that can be adjusted to fit the contexts and needs of the grower.
Photo Credits: Perin McNelis
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