Land Conserved to Protect the San Pedro River

The Flying H Ranch in southeastern Arizona has been permanently protected to enhance water supplies for the San Pedro River, protect wildlife habitat, and allow continued ranching operations, The Trust for Public Land announced today.

The 1,914-acre ranch lies just a few miles from the San Pedro River and straddles the scenic state highway 92 just southwest of the City of Bisbee. Under the previous ownership of a developer, plans had been made to use the ranch for residential housing. In partnership with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and a neighboring rancher, The Trust for Public Land purchased the ranch to prevent this development and associated water uses.

The Trust for Public Land has placed a conservation easement on the land that limits its use to livestock grazing and will thereby benefit the water supply to the nearby San Pedro River by preventing residential development. This easement has been sold to CBP to offset the agency's water uses in the area, and CBP will be responsible for long-term monitoring and enforcement of its restrictions. This is the first time The Trust for Public Land has partnered with CBP to protect the water supplies of the San Pedro River.

With the land permanently protected from development, The Trust for Public Land sold the property to the Ladd family, who own an adjacent 14,000-acre grassland ranch – the San Jose Ranch – where they have been raising cattle for five generations. The Ladds are committed to sustainable ranching – the westernmost 2,300 acres of their ranchland, located next to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, already has a conservation easement in place – and they plan restore the property to healthy grassland for the benefit of cattle and wildlife.

“This was a very important project to protect the critical water resources of the San Pedro River,” said Michael Patrick, project manager for The Trust for Public Land. “This was a great partnership between The Trust for Public Land, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Ladd family to come up with innovative land protection solution that would be a win-win for water, wildlife, and local ranching.”

The San Pedro River provides habitat for a number of federally listed species and over 250 species of wintering and migratory birds, and it is one of the most important rivers for wildlife in the Southwest. The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, located near the Flying H Ranch, is one of the crown jewels of BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System and a major destination for bird-watchers.

“The purchase of the Flying H ranch, through the combined efforts of The Trust for Public Land, Border Protection and the Ladd family, has attained several worthy goals,” said rancher Jack Ladd, whose family runs the San Jose Ranch. “Groundwater supply to the river will be benefited, wildlife habitat and open space will be preserved, and the property can again become productive and sustainable as a cattle ranch. We are very appreciative of the role played by The Trust for Public Land in accomplishing this.”

“The Ladds are highly regarded for their work by both ranchers and the conservation community. They will work to restore the grasslands of Flying H Ranch that will benefit their ranching operation, protect wildlife, and save critical water resources,” added Patrick.

“CBP is pleased that it was able to partner with The Trust for Public Land on the acquisition of the conservation easement,” said Paul Enriquez with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “The conservation easement offsets CBP’s water use in the area, which is in keeping with CBP’s responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act.”

This project is part of a much broader initiative by the Upper San Pedro Partnership, Cochise County, Fort Huachuca, City of Sierra Vista, BLM, The Nature Conservancy and other partners to protect the water supplies of the Upper San Pedro River for future generations through a combination of water conservation measures, land protection, and water recharge projects. The County and partners are currently evaluating additional projects, including a stormwater recharge project and erosion restoration project on the Ladd’s San Jose Ranch near the river which could significantly benefit water supplies in the aquifer.

A map of the project can be found here.

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