Posts Tagged ‘open spaces’
An update on the Desert Fence Busters
by Trica Oshant Hawkins, Conservation Programs Director, Arizona Wildlife Federation
[Excerpted from the Spring 2023 Friends of Ironwood Forest Newsletter]
I’ve been coordinating various volunteer conservation projects for well over 20 years now. In all that time, I can honestly say that the most gratifying work I have ever done (with or without volunteers) is removing old, abandoned barbed-wire fences.
Nothing says “accomplishment” like a wide open landscape you know is safer for wildlife and allows them freedom of movement for migration, foraging, finding mates, predator avoidance, etc. Sharing that satisfaction with a group of volunteers and other like-minded conservationists is, well, exhilarating.
Those “like-minded conservationists” I’m referring to are the Desert Fence Busters, who have collaborated over the past couple of years to make these impactful fence removal projects happen.
Through my work with the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF), I’ve been involved in projects to remove abandoned barbed-wire fence from public lands for several years now. However, working collaboratively with Desert Fence Busters takes this work to a whole other level.
In the past two years with AWF’s Volunteer for Wildlife program, I’ve organized four different projects, through which we’ve removed five miles of fencing. Those projects typically involve myself (representing AWF), a couple of agency partners, and volunteers (usually less than 20 folks per project).
In roughly that same amount of time, through six Desert Fence Busters projects, we’ve removed an estimated 21 miles of fence and taken 15,300 pounds of metal off the landscape to be recycled. Now that’s impact! See what we can do when we collaborate?
For a group of six different non-profit conser-vation organizations, a cadre of volunteers, and county, state, and federal agencies to collaborate and accomplish so much so quickly is nothing short of extraordinary. There is a certain magic with the Desert Fence Busters that one rarely experiences in the conservation field.
Collaborating among different organizations without “turf wars” or power struggles is rare indeed, yet somehow this group simply gets along and gets things done. We’ve come to honor, respect, and learn more about each other’s work and mission, but more than anything, we share the same goal: to help wildlife by getting aban-doned barbed wire off the landscape…to bust fence!
While fences serve many purposes, with both positive and negative effects on wildlife and people, abandoned barbed-wire fencing poses nothing but hazards for animals on the land-scape. Wildlife get entangled in the wire, often resulting in death. Fencing also disrupts the natural movement of wildlife, causing individual stress and population declines.
Many of these fences were installed during the era of intense cattle ranching in the south-west, which coincided with the invention of barbed wire in the late 1870s. To hold on to their public land grazing allotments, ranchers had to show “improvement” on the land. Building fences was (and still is) one of the primary methods of “improving” one’s grazing allotments.
However, there weren’t (and still aren’t) any directives stating that those fences had to be removed once ranchers and their cattle moved on. As land ownership and grazing allotments changed, the relics of the cattle industry remain-ed on the landscape. And they still do to this day.
It is estimated that there are 620,000 miles of fence on private, city, county, state and federal landscapes across the west. But no one really knows how much of that is abandoned barbed-wire fence, also known as “ghost fence.”
We do know it is a significant amount. As an example, in the 776 square miles that make up the Sonoran Desert National Monument (an AWF fence removal project site), it is estimated that there are at least 40 more miles of abandoned fence that needs removing…that we know of. So, there’s a lot of work to be done!
The beauty of the Desert Fence Busters is that we have a variety of agency land managers that identify and map abandoned fence that needs removing from their respective lands. Once a project site is scouted and identified, each of the different non-profit organizations reaches out to their respective database of volunteers, invit-ing them to participate in the project.
Agencies like the Arizona Game and Fish Department provide resources such as tools and fence rollers. Friends of Ironwood Forest sets up an information table and welcomes volunteers. BKW partners load and haul away the dropped fencing and T-posts. All of the groups help in organizing the projects and share costs of providing lunch, snacks, and beverages.
Through the Desert Fence Busters, we are truly making an impact on our beloved Sonoran desert landscape. We are improving the habitat for wildlife… and for people. Together, we are making a difference.
There are some who say the future of conservation is in collaboration. With the Desert Fence Busters, that future is now.
The Desert Fence Busters includes the following partner organizations: Friends of Ironwood Forest, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Arizona Game and Fish Department, BKW, Bureau of Reclamation, City of Tucson, Friend of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Mule Deer Foundation, Pima County, Saguaro National Park, and Tucson Audubon Society.
Pima County pursues new protected open spaces
Late last year, Pima County announced a slate of new protected open space acquisitions they are pursuing with the $2 million allocated for the acquisition of conservation land in the County’s 2022-2023 budget. The open space parcels include:
- A set of parcels next to the wildlife crossing over the CAP canal in Avra Valley;
- A set of private inholdings on the M-Diamond Ranch in the San Pedro River valley; and
- A small inholding on the Buckelew Farm in Avra Valley.
Want to learn more about these parcels? Head over to this Pima County memo that includes more details about each open space acquisition and maps of the parcels adjacent to the CAP canal wildlife crossing.
All of these new open space acquisitions are part of Pima County’s continued implementation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
SnapShot USA in full swing
The Snapshot USA project is a huge collaborative effort to sample mammal populations with camera traps across all of the United States. The study is designed to sample sites in all 50 states stratified across habitats and development zones (suburban/rural/wild/urban) with an objective of at least 400 “trap nights” (or days) per sub-project/ organization.
This year we were able to contribute camera data from 12 cameras in our Oro Valley study area, for the study period of September and October.
Despite a few challenges with vegetation growth creating lots of blank images, we contributed 3,208 photos of species including javelina, jackrabbits, coyotes, bobcats, mule deer, white-tail deer… and even a surprise black bear on the MALLOW camera! The entire effort has collected photos of 384 species at over 2,000 camera sites across the U.S.
As science papers come out of this data, we will share the results and findings with you, and we look forward to contributing again next year!
Desert Fence Busters
Join us for our last Desert Fence Busters event for Winter 2023!
WHERE: West Tucker Road, Avra Valley – more detailed directions will be given after you register
NOTES: Organizers will provide coffee and donuts/bagels in the morning and snacks, water, and Gatorade during break. No lunch will be provided. There will also not be a portable outhouse and camping will not be allowed (day-event only).
REGISTER TODAY at the Arizona Game and Fish Department website.
HOW TO SIGN UP: You will need to create an account with the Arizona Game and Fish volunteer portal (if you don’t have one already) and then sign up for this specific event.
1. After navigating to the event sign-up page, click the “Respond” button in the top right corner.
2. Click “Sign Up” to create an account and follow the required steps.
3. Once your account is created, including signing the volunteer registration form, you will be sent back to the main sign-up page. Scroll down below the photo to the section titled “Shifts.”
4. Click the “Respond Individually” button and sign up for the event (only one shift is available).
There are limited spots available so sign up as soon as you can!
Want to learn more about the Desert Fence Busters? Head over to our website for a recap of our events so far, including photo slideshows.
Pima County’s Open Space Conservation Acquisitions: An Overview
Pima County has invested heavily in acquiring conservation properties, especially in fulfilling the goals of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The County recently released a new report about all their open space conservation acquisitions. Along with providing a comprehensive overview of this decades-long program, the report specifically touches on the transparent public processes underlying the prioritization of eligible lands, funding mechanisms, and benefits these lands bring to the community.
You can check out the full report HERE.
Thank you for supporting our work as a partner and advocate for connected and robust protected open space in the Sonoran Desert!
Avra Valley Fence Removal Volunteer Day a Big Success!
On December 11, 2021, a group of local organizations and state/federal agencies came together to celebrate National Public Lands Day by holding a Fence Removal Volunteer Day in Avra Valley. It was a wonderfully cool day with volunteers in high spirits to accomplish something tangible and positive for wildlife.
A few fun stats from this great event:
- Over 65 volunteers, a group from the American Conservation Experience (ACE) program, and staff from Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service joined together for the project.
- 3 miles of fence were removed from the landscape in one morning.
- 3 tons of metal, including fence posts and wire fencing, were hauled away.
This is a fantastic start to improving the permeability of the landscape for wildlife movement between the Tucson Mountains, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Pima County open space lands, and more. And a big thanks to the Coalition volunteers that came out and volunteered their time – we are so thankful for you.
This is the first of a few Fence Removal Volunteer Days – we plan to hold one to two more this winter and spring so keep your eye out for more details. We’d love to have you join in on the next event!
Thank you to all the organizations that helped make this event possible, including Friends of Ironwood Forest, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Saguaro National Park/National Park Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, American Conservation Experience, Pima County, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the Mule Deer Foundation.
Photos below are courtesy Carolyn Campbell and Lee Pagni.
What types of wildlife cameras do we use?
Interested in purchasing a wildlife camera for yourself or as a gift for family or friends?
The short answer from our Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno is:
I recommend checking out the reviews and the beginner’s buyers guide found at www.trailcampro.com. With new models coming on the market all the time, this is a great resource for up to date recommendations and tips. You get what you pay for, so I don’t recommend anything worth less than $100. To minimize animal disturbance, choose an infrared/IR camera over white flash.
For more information, check out Jessica’s longer article in the Desert Leaf, “Wildlife (caught) on camera” which gives more details on wildlife cameras, the different ways they are used, some rules and regulations to think about depending on where you’re placing them, and what to think about when buying one.
If you do end up buying a camera and get some interesting pictures of Sonoran Desert wildlife, we’d love to see them!
Note: Another fun resource is the Backyard Wildlife of the Southwest Facebook page where wildlife enthusiasts from around the Southwest regularly post photos of wildlife taken with their wildlife cameras and regular cameras.
ACTION ALERT: Comments needed on draft Marana General Plan!
The Town of Marana is currently accepting public comments on its new draft General Plan – will you send the Planning and Zoning Commission a quick email today and comment on this important planning document? You can send your comments to Marana staff member Cynthia Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to access the full draft Marana General Plan, it can be found HERE.
We’ve drafted some talking points below if you want some guidance on what to say. We know these types of planning documents can be cumbersome and time-consuming to review. However, they are really important in how they inform local government decisions around issues such as protecting open spaces and wildlife linkages; guide the locations of new developments and roads; and shape how our communities plan for future growth.
THANK YOU for using your voice to protect open spaces and wildlife in Marana!
SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS FOR THE DRAFT MARANA GENERAL PLAN:
1. The Tortolita Preserve needs to be identified on all Town maps. The General Plan is a 10-year document and there is an 81-year period left in the lease agreement. If the Town feels that it cannot be labeled “Preserve” due to perceived requirements dictated by the Arizona State Land Department, then the land should be, at a minimum, delineated on maps and labeled as “Open Space Park.”
2. Given the investment that the Town of Marana has already made into a variety of environmental planning documents (such as a Draft Habitat Conservation Plan, the Tres Rios del Norte Feasibility Study, the Santa Cruz River Corridor Study, and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan), the Town should be developing its proposed Open Space and Wildlife Conservation Plan concurrently with the General Plan. Resource protection and conservation need to be integrated with land use plans, not viewed as an unrelated goal or addendum.
3. Wildlife connectivity open space across Tangerine Road needs to be protected and buffered. Wildlife crossings have been installed along Tangerine Road at public expense (by the Regional Transportation Authority) and need to function as they are intended. Without adequate buffers, wildlife is unlikely to use these crossings. In addition, Prospect Wash wildlife connectivity across Tangerine Road and Moore Road needs to be preserved as Natural Undisturbed Open Space and buffered appropriately. In addition to Tangerine Road, open space is necessary across Moore Road in order for wildlife movement to continue to the Tortolita Preserve and on to the Tortolita Mountains.
4. Various maps, including Future Land Use and Future Circulation, depict a new interstate, Interstate 11, running west of the Tucson Mountains. Given the current planning timeline for Interstate 11 and the fact that a Preferred Alternative Route has not been chosen, please delete the route and both spurs back to Interstate 10 from these maps. The construction of Interstate 11 is well outside of the planning horizon for this General Plan, whether Interstate 11 ends up being built as an I-10 bypass west of the Tucson Mountains or at all.
5. While many of the implementation actions listed in the Resources and Sustainability tables, if adopted and followed, will help mitigate the on-going effects of climate change, an action should be added that will “develop and implement a Climate Resilience and Emergency Readiness Plan.”
Feel free to use any or all of these talking points in your comments, or use them as guides and put them into your own voice.
The Marana Planning & Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, November 20, at 6pm at the Marana Municipal Complex, 11555 W. Civic Center Dr, Marana, AZ, 85653. Please consider attending in person and giving your comments verbally. Each person will be given 3 minutes to speak.
The Marana Town Council will also be holding a public hearing on Tuesday, December 10 at 6pm at the Marana Municipal Complex, 11555 W. Civic Center Dr, Marana, AZ, 85653. Again, each person will be given 3 minutes to speak. If the Town Council approves the draft General Plan at that meeting, it will then go to Marana voters for approval.
Our full set of comments that we have submitted to the Marana Planning & Zoning Commission can be found on our website HERE.
Thank you again for using YOUR voice on behalf of the people and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert.