The high-quality native grasslands of southeast Arizona provide critical wildlife habitat in one of the most biologically diverse corners of North America. Birds, bats, deer, and the endangered jaguar are just some of the species that live around the Chiricahua and Dos Cabezas mountain ranges, also known as “sky island” mountains because of their abrupt rise above the surrounding countryside. Home to several important public lands such as Fort Bowie National Historic Site and Chiricahua National Monument, this expansive landscape also contains a number of large cattle ranches. But the grassland valley faces numerous threats including residential subdivision and irrigation techniques that would deplete this critical ecosystem, the species it supports, and the carbon it stores.
The owner of Cienega Ranch, the largest ranch in the valley, is working on a long-term effort to protect and improve the ranch’s grasslands for both wildlife and cattle ranching. Techniques the owner has developed to retain water and prevent erosion are being used to restore other ranchlands across the Southwest. His work includes partnering with Arizona Game and Fish to preserve habitats for endangered fish and frogs. These award-winning models of restoration are examples of how wide-reaching and critical the benefits of conservation can be.
Trust for Public Land has permanently protected more than 27,100 acres of Cienega Ranch with conservation easements in partnership with the ranch owner, forever ensuring that the land will never be developed or subdivided. This conservation victory means that Cienega’s rich ecosystem can flourish and thrive, cultivating healthy grasslands for years to come.