Partnership for Monitoring Rangeland and Riparian Health in Red Rock Canyon Watershed, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Four ranchers grazing livestock in southern Arizona’s Red Rock Canyon watershed have forces with scientists to improve the rangeland and riparian health. The ranchers have formed the “Canelo Hills Coalition” and have converted, or are in the process of converting, to deferred rotational grazing plans. During 2005-06, five more ranchers joined the coalition. To achieve the goals of their grant, the coalition members have harnessed the services of agency and academic monitoring experts to monitor allotment vegetation in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Using rangeland and riparian plant monitoring under the guidance of scientists from the University of Arizona and the U.S. Forest Service, the project team plans to
• Develop water and fencing to rotate livestock and rest pastures during certain periods
• Develop a user-friendly teaching plan to spread information about plant growth and regeneration to various groups, including local schools and 4-H groups.
Rangeland monitoring of current year’s vegetation was completed in early October 2005 on the Crittenden and Seibold allotments on nine previously established monitoring transects. The monitoring team consisted of John Hays and Walt Meyer of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension; Kate Cline of the Natural Resources Conservation Service; Richard, Rich and Diane Collins, Forest Service permittees; Jim Koweek, rangeland monitoring trainee, Redrock Coalition; Emily Brott, Sonoran Institute; and Christy Peterson, a permittee on the Kunde Allotment.
The allotments are about 4 miles east of Patagonia, Ariz., in the center and the western boundary of the Red Rock Watershed, which is located between the Canelo Hills and Sonoita, Ariz. The allotments consist mostly of shallow hills, shallow uplands, limy slopes and sandy bottoms. Elevations range from 4,000 to 5,800 feet, and soils are shallow, consisting mostly of sandy loams and clayey loams.
Annual precipitation ranges between 16 and 23 inches, with about one-third falling between November and April and two-thirds between May and October. Average maximum temperature is 75degrees, average minimum is 40. Fluctuations in species composition and production change from year to year depending on variations in precipitation or abnormal environmental factors.
Ground cover, plant frequency and fetch data were collected using pace frequency, dry weight rank and Parker Three Step methods. That data collected were used to determine composition of current year’s growth. Before collecting the data, certain guidelines were established for each method to eliminate or minimize bias and to maintain sampling consistency between observers.
A meeting of ranchers, agency personnel and cooperative extension range specialists was scheduled for the spring of 2007, a meeting the project coordinator considers to be of high importance. While ranchers have participated in field collection of data and now understand how the agencies use the monitoring data, the range specialists can now help the ranchers interpret their findings into practical management recommendations.
“For ranchers, it’s a bit like reading the bible,” said project coordinator Collins. “We read the works, but we have to go to church and listen to the preacher to understand them.”
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
The field data have been collected and the project team is analyzing the data and preparing reports of results, which will be presented during a meeting in early 2007.
To meet its objective of developing youth educational materials and experiences, the project looked for existing programs, such as one developed by 4-H in Montana called “At Home on the Range.” That program, however, focused on suburban youth. So the group opted to send seven youth from its area to the Natural Resource Conservation Workshop for Arizona Youth, ages 12-16, sponsored by the Arizona Section of the Society for Range Management July 10-14.
“The camp provided a much better opportunity to teach than we could have provided by developing a more limited lesson plan,” said the project’s annual report, “and did so at a remarkable low cost ($100 each). We plant to send another seven students to the camp next summer, scheduled for July 9-13.”
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
The Canelo Hills Coalition sponsored two workshops. The first, on how to measure and interpret utilization levels in pastures after grazing, was attended by 47 people from local ranches, NRCS, the state of Arizona and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. Several methods were discussed for determining utilization, including one developed and adopted by the Forest Service, Arizona Cattle Growers and Cooperative Extension. The workshop took participants to the field to apply the methods in a grazed pasture on the Rose Tree Ranch in nearby Elgin.
The second workshop, held April 3-5, 2006, was titled “Grazing Management for Riparian-Wetland Areas,” and was put on by the National Riparian Service Team with participation by BLM, Forest Service, NRCS and UA CES. A lecture and discussion was held in the Stage Stop Hotel in Patagonia, Ariz., and at the C6 and Vaca Ranches in the Red Rock watershed. More than 40 people attended, including nine local ranchers and agency and technical staff. In the field, the group applied the Proper Functioning Condition analysis to areas grazing only during the winter and areas where grazing has been excluded for several years owing to the presence of the Gila topminnow, an endangered species. Both areas were considered in Proper Functioning Condition, which means the areas evaluated were fulfilling their ecological roles in the watershed.
In addition to the original group, five more local ranchers joined the Canelo Hills Coalition in 2005-06. The coalition now covers 125,000 acres, about 65% Forest Service allotments and 35% deeded, and includes the headwaters of the Santa Cruz and Babacomari rivers and Sonoita and Cienega creeks.
Extension Specialist and Research Scientist
University of Arizona Extension
Office Phone: 5206211384