The Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation works to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the US/Mexican borderlands through land protection, habitat restoration and wildlife reintroduction.
In an effort to reconcile ecological restoration and cattle ranching, CLO is experimenting holistic grazing in the ranch el Valle, in Northern Sonora, MX. In the ranch, land had been resting without grazing for 20 years but clumps of grasses were dying out and the overall grass to bare soil ratio was not improving. CLO is trying a new form of grazing to see if by disturbing and fertilizing the surface of the soil, the situation can be improved.
The cattle are used as a tool: the hoof action breaks the soil’s crust, manure adds nutrients and the cows’ saliva while eating stimulates plant growth. In order to prevent overgrazing, the cattle are moved 4 times a day and each section grazed rest for two rainy season (18 months). Many areas of the ranch are kept for wildlife only.
As the old adage goes - ‘the more we know about the past, the better we’ll be prepared for the future’.
It was an honor and pleasure to hear a morning of recollections about water history in the Sonoita Creek Watershed with Patagonia's community members. We learned of the lush environment that sustained the Sonorasaurus thompsoni, a 49 ft long and 27 ft tall dinosaur that lived in our neighboring watershed in the middle of the Cretaceous period. We explored living memories with attendants who shared stories of bucolic picnics on the banks of the Sonoita Creek and wild west standoffs in the 1930s over blowing up the local bridge to prevent rising waters from flooding the town.
The Borderlands Institute, together with Friends of Sonoita Creek and the Flood and Flow Committee had the opportunity to introduce the science, models and planning processes which are being developed to better inform decision-making in our home watershed. Responses from the audience regarding which topics they view as important will direct future research of the institute, ensuring what we do is useful to the people who work, live and play in our beloved borderlands region.
A STORY BY KRISTA SCHLYER, PUBLISHED by Next Generation of Sonoran Desert Researchers (N-Gen)
Borderlands are special spaces where cultures meet and mix, where diverse communities blend within the overlapping edges of two worlds. This is especially true in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands because the region lies along a natural boundary as well as a geopolitical border.
Extract: Where the United States meets Mexico, a 2,000-mile stretch of land bridges the tropical and temperate zones. Here jaguars and ocelots share the landscape with their northerly cousins, the cougar and bobcat. Green jays, Altamira orioles and elegant trogons perch side-by-side on mesquite, ebony, and cottonwood branches with northern cardinals and mockingbirds. This is a landscape of wild surprise, shared equitably by the north and south of the natural world.
This is a landscape of wild surprise, shared equitably by the north and south of the natural world. The borderlands harbor some of North America’s rarest wild species and oldest human cultures, descendants of the Hohokam, Lipan-Apache and Spanish colonial families – all of whom predate the United States’ existence as a nation.
These lands are home to Sonoran pronghorn, prairie dogs, black bears, and gray wolves; they contain some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the continent. More than 450 rare species live here – some cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. At least 700 neotropical birds, mammals, and insects migrate through the borderlands each year. Like the human migrants who pass through this world between worlds, they seek safety, a future, survival.
But all of these borderlands treasures have been facing the eroding consequences of policies that prioritize large-scale construction of walls and other infrastructure, and that disrupt lives and divide the landscape. Abundant evidence has shown over the past decade that these barriers do not stop people. But they have destroyed and fragmented rare habitats, blocked migration corridors for endangered species, undercut the borderlands economy, and, along with a policy of militarization that dates to the early 1990s, they have led to the deaths of more than 6,000 human migrants.
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The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at Northern Arizona University ( DDCSP@NAU ) works to grow leaders for a conservation field that is functional, relevant, and just by embracing diversity, honoring different voices and perspectives, and changing the conservation field’s norms and culture to influence and expand how conservation is practiced.
On Jan 5, 2017, the Doris Duke Scholars visited the Arizona-Sonora border region to learn about conservation challenges in the region, and the grassroots initiatives being implemented to address them. Borderlands Restoration introduced them to this incredibly beautiful and complexe region - 'one of the most biologically diverse, yet economically depressed regions of the U.S-Mexico borderlands' - and shared its passion for habitat restoration, community engagement, and sustainable development. The scholars toured Deep Dirt Farm Institute to learn about integrating sustainable food systems with habitat and wildlife protection, and visited the border wall located on the property of a local rancher. Throughout the day the students collected video footage that would be later used to create these films. A Navajo production company, Paper Rocket Productions, was enlisted by the DDCSP to conduct a one-day workshop on making a “movie with a message” using the footage collected at Borderlands. The learning objective for this activity was for students to be able to communicate conservation challenges, and the work being done to address them, through their personal lens of identity and experience.
By David Seibert
The word economy emerges from French and Latin and references “management of the house.” This type of inquiry helps us ask a critical question: How might we best form decisions and take action in the house in which we live? Not coincidentally, and vital to BRLI work, are its parallels with the term ecology, literally “logic of the house.” How exactly are the parts of our house arranged, how do they function, and what parts are at shared risk to the inhabitants?
In order to begin to answer such questions, BRLI works to explore and activate restoration ecologies at fundamental scales, even prior to consideration of the term’s monetary aspects. For the entirety of human history (and in the opinions of many researchers, the primary reason that humans still exist at all), an economy has functioned as a system of exchange, no matter the ideas or objects exchanged. And systems of exchange depend strongly upon relationships so that they may continue—patterns of expectation, responsibility (the ability to respond), and obligation. This is as true for systems in which people pay for services according to agreement, as it is for hummingbirds that somehow coordinate their northward migrations with sequences of blooming plants that they need for food, and that in turn “require” the birds’ pollination services in order to set seed and reproduce.
A brief example will help illustrate the human side of the potentials within systems of exchange and relationship, of restoration economies, that are deliberately treated and nurtured as such. A typical landscaper with tools and a vehicle might or might not be considered part of a restoration economy. Certainly there are clients, work done on the ground to facilitate the flow of water, reduce weeds, and improve safety for the client’s house, all within the “house” of the earth. This person might participate in a system of relationships with clients and other practitioners, all restoring function to the landscape and fulfilling the client’s desires. But what about the owner of the local gas station? This person might be considered far outside a restoration economy because he provides thus-far unsustainable fuel that pollutes ecosystems. Or, he might be considered part of such an economy because he provides fuel for the landscaper’s truck, enabling him to complete valuable work although it’s expensive and supplies are sporadic in this scenario.
By considering both deliberation of effort and intention within the system of exchanges and relationships, however, we can strengthen the concept and its effective application. What if the landscaper’s day looked something more like this: After a full day of building water-harvesting structures and planting native plants to support pollinators on a degraded landscape—work which has been designed as part of a complementary system of exchange and relation, one that incorporates the worker’s need for monetary income as part of the larger system—the truck owner deliberately and with full intention chooses to fill up his gas tank at the local, expensive gas station with an unpredictable supply. Why? Because it has been agreed that tending the larger system and its human, non-human, and even abiotic parts in tandem might just create greater resilience for the whole.
Perhaps, with this form of relationship in place, the station owner increases his supplies of fuel because he knows that the worker needs it and will buy it (due to the increased predictability within the system afforded by an active restoration project that requires trucks and people working), and the worker agrees to pay higher prices in order to avoid long drives to other places, but also to keep one of his community members intact as part of the larger system--but also because the restoration economy has provided a platform for people to rethink not only how they relate to places and how to make a living by caring for them, but how they relate to and depend upon one another for many kinds of support at the same time.