The Trust for Public Land Announces Completion of the Aravaipa Canyon Recreational Access Project
Today, The Trust for Public Land and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announce the protection of the Cross F Ranch, a beautiful and rugged landscape connecting Aravaipa Creek and BLM’s Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness on its west side with the Santa Teresa Mountains and Forest Service’s Santa Teresa Wilderness area to the east.
A main objective of this project was to create public access to this landscape for hunting, hiking, equestrian and other outdoor recreational uses in an area that has historically been locked off to the public. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, another partner in this project, the protection of the ranch and adding these private lands into public ownership has created guaranteed permanent public access to 40,000 acres that were previously closed. In addition to the outdoor public recreation benefits provided, the protection of this ranch will also protect a substantial portion of the watershed for nearby Aravaipa Creek, containing the most diverse collection of native fish in Arizona, and preserve an important wildlife migration corridor for desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
“Across Arizona, millions of acres of our public lands are blocked to recreational use by private landowners, leaving many rural communities and outdoor enthusiasts without access to land traditionally used for hunting, hiking, and horse riding,” said Michael Patrick, Senior Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land. “This project will protect an important landscape and provide thousands of acres of public access to these beautiful wild lands. A notable aspect of completing this complicated conservation transaction was the collaboration with many partners, including the financial support of numerous sportsmen and outdoor groups who said to just tell them what we needed to make this project successful.”
Containing nearly 22,000 acres of public and private lands, the ranch included 2,831 acres of private lands that The Trust for Public Land has conveyed to BLM and an additional 323 acres of private lands (that lie within the Coronado National Forest) that were conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service. The ranch lies just north of the community of Klondyke, and is also adjacent to both the San Carlos Apache reservation and The Nature Conservancy’s Aravaipa Canyon Preserve.
“The BLM is pleased to work with The Trust for Public Land in securing these lands,” said BLM Safford Field Manager Scott Cooke. “This acquisition increases recreational access and improves and protects wildlife habitat in the Aravaipa Creek Watershed.”
In keeping the ranch in traditional cattle grazing uses, The Trust for Public Land assigned the grazing leases of the Cross F Ranch on over 19,000 acres of federal and state lands to a private rancher, Kathy Sergent. Sergent, a rancher with a strong land ethic and who had previously been a researcher with Arizona Game and Fish, plans significant improvements to the ranch’s water system and grassland condition which will benefit both livestock and wildlife. She also conveyed a public access easement (with funding provided by Arizona Game and Fish) across her adjacent Dry Camp Ranch earlier this year that provides a portion of the public access benefits created by this project.
“For me, what a great opportunity it was to expand my cattle operation right next door. I was already leasing the Cross F ranch, but purchasing it made a lot better sense,” said Kathy Sergent. I really think every entity involved got something they wanted and The Trust For Public Land and the BLM were great to work with. As we plan for Arizona’s future we need to save blocks of undeveloped land, for the wildlife and the people.”
There were many partners involved in the success of this project including BLM, U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish, rancher Kathy Sergent, Graham County, and The Nature Conservancy of Arizona. Additional funding to support the substantial project costs, including The Trust for Public Land’s work to remove a number of old buildings and fence off some open mine shafts, was provided by the following sportsmen and outdoor recreation groups:, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, National Wild Turkey Federation (Arizona chapter), Wild Sheep Foundation (both national and the Midwest chapter), Southern Arizona Hiking Club, Arizona Deer Association, and Safari Club International (Arizona chapter) in addition to The Nature Conservancy.
“Access into Aravaipa Canyon and areas beyond, has been an issue for decades for sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Charlie Kelly, treasurer for the Wild Sheep Foundation and Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation as well as past president for the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society. “After several years of hard work by the Trust for Public Land, access has finally been secured permanently by the acquisition of the Cross F Ranch. This project was made possible in large part with funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), as well as generous contributions from several environmental and wildlife conservation groups. This vital project is proof what can be accomplished when groups with somewhat different perspectives, can come together in unison to accomplish great things!”
The private lands going to BLM include the historic mining town of Aravaipa where a large community lived in the early 1900’s to work the surrounding mines. Now a ghost town with a collection of old buildings, head shafts and other artifacts from its mining past, BLM plans to work with Graham County Historical Society to interpret and explain this important part of Arizona’s history for the public.
Funding for the purchase of the ranch by the BLM and Forest Service was provided through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is the primary source of funding that invests in protecting critical natural resource and outdoor recreation lands from development, enhancing public access for recreation, protecting key wildlife habitat, and conserving land and water resources on federally designated and managed lands. In August 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act, which permanently funds the LWCF at $900 million annually, was signed into law with broad, bipartisan support. This Aravaipa Canyon Recreation Access project was BLM’s highest acquisition priority for use of LWCF in the country.
“I was honored to cosponsor and vote to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and helping to ensure our nation’s beautiful public lands are accessible and protected for decades to come,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01). “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Arizona leaders and organizations working to preserve the natural resources, cultural histories, and physical wonders that our public lands hold.”
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.