Communing with Nature, Redux!

September 6, 2014

I spent Friday with Ms. J. It’s not often that she and I spend a non-holiday, no-weekend day together, but this one had a purpose. Ms. J works for The Nature Conservancy in its Arizona office. As part of her job she needs to visit preserves and properties around the state, and I’m a worthy chauffeur/overnight companion. (We do so well in the car together, truly!)

On this trip we were off to the Aravaipa Canyon Preserve. The preserve is northeast of my house, maybe about 50 miles. Alas, no one has seen fit to cut a road through the Santa Catalina Mountains for my convenience. In fact, no one has even built a road through the preserve, completely; thus, had we gone by way of Oracle Junction/San Manuel, we never would have gotten to our destination. Instead, we drove 90 miles to Willcox, about 30 miles north of Willcox (past the tomato greenhouses), and then we ba-boomed along a 40 mile dirt road.

Nature and I have a less than friendly relationship. I live inside my head, I like people more than I like animals, I really don’t like bugs, and my friends—several, none of whom are acquainted with one another—tell me I’m clean, not dirty! Translation:  Inside Guy!

Beauty is beauty, however, and I saw some beautiful country on our brief visit. We were not in picture-taking mode, but Ms. J did snap one shot as we were leaving, and it’s from the south end of the canyon.


I’m betting it only gets prettier in the middle.

So you gotten the setup—Inside Guy—and the fact that we saw not so much. So why bother writing about my trip? I’m so, so impressed with the work being done by TNC.

A few months ago we were at both the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary and Hart Prairie, north of Flagstaff, where TNC plays a lead role in the thinning that helps reduce forest fires. Here’s the link to my report:  Communing with Nature! Really!!!

In Aravaipa Canyon TNC owns 9000 acres. That land gets managed along with another 40,000 acres of federal land, But, in talking with the people who manage the preserve, it’s clear that TNC works not just with the Bureau of Land Management—the feds—but also with the state, and with the many private landowners in the area. I’ve come away from the visits to both Hart Prairie and Aravaipa Canyon heartened by the nexus between government, private landowners, and TNC.

I also learned about strong efforts to reintroduce and encourage native species—Ms. J says that’s flora, in case any of you city slickers were wondering—and rid the area of non-native plants. We saw a several years old aerial photograph of a vacant farm just a few miles south of the preserve. The preserve manager has been planting native species on an experimental basis, to determine what plants work best in which settings, which plants the cattle will eat—the preserve has some grazing allotments, and it must run some cattle to keep the land—and how these programs can be replicated.

In the Willcox area, very wealthy farmer-philanthropist Howard Buffett operates a 1500 acre farm, developing better production methods for use in Latin America and Africa. Here’s a link to his important work. In both instances the game is figuring out how to feed people and animals using native vegetation, instead of trying to turn every farm in the world into a wheat, corn, or soybean farm.

The takeaways for me? First, some very bright, very, very hard-working people have taken an organization far beyond “we own land, so no one will develop it.” Second, there’s some really creative work going on about land use, the protection of flora and fauna, and feeding the world. Hard not to leave my 24 hours in and about Aravaipa Canyon feeling encouraged about our future!

P.S. No restaurants, without ba-boom for 40 miles each way, and then you have Willcox selections, and we did not get lost!

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