A Walkabout on Babocamari Ranch – Land Healing Possibilities
October 18, 2014. Early on a fall Saturday morning, a group of about 20 ranchers and farmers, took time out from their busy lives to walk theVaughn Canyon Wash on the Babocamari Ranch to see how the erosion control structures built by Borderlands Restoration crews had fared after the heavy summer monsoons. As the group hiked the dry wash they saw evidence of the summer monsoon rains that generate the torrents of water that typically rush through the high desert grasslands and canyons, carrying truckloads of soil downstream. They also saw stretches of sandbags and rocks stacked in alternating half-moon curves along the streambed to slow these surges down, allowing the water to soak down into the thirsty land. As the groups meandered through a maze of structures- dams, weirs, rock baffles and Zuni bowls- project manager Trevor Hare explained how each structure was strategically placed to capture the gravelly soil and strengthen the channel walls to resist further erosion. Borderlands Director, David Seibert highlighted the importance of these structures to prevent the deep cut- wounds in the landscape caused by extreme flooding that essentially “unzip” the landscape. The group saw brand new grass growing in the heaps of soil piling up behind the structures, which were mostly intact after the floods. As the seasoned land stewards gazed across the golden native grasslands in full fall bloom, they talked among themselves about possibilities- of how they might spread this healing to landscapes throughout Santa Cruz County.
The gathering was organized by the Santa Cruz County Natural Resource Conservation District (SC-NRCD) represented by local ranchers Bill Schock and Mark Larkin. The Santa Cruz NRCD is part of a wider association of landowners working to address natural resource conservation on private lands- the Arizona NRCD. These locally controlled citizen groups partner with the federal agency Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help landowners to garner support- technical expertise and funding- to implement conservation programs on their lands. This unique agency was initiated by landowners, as the Soil Conservation Service, during the “Dust Bowl” era of the 1930s. Kristen Egen represented NRCS during Saturday morning Babocamari walkabout. The event was hosted by Charlie Brophy- representing the family owners- with Borderlands Restoration L3C, who is partnering with the Babocomari Ranch to implement landscape scale watershed restoration to increase water flow to the Babocamari and San Pedro Rivers.
Intriguing possibilities emerged: the possibility of implementing a County wide erosion control and habitat conservation plan with local landowners with cost sharing from NRCS; the possibility of more local jobs and training for individuals that want to develop their knowledge and skills in natural resources conservation; the possibility of local partnerships to ground these possibilities. Accompanying the group on the walk and at the delicious corn tamale lunch -prepared by Annie Gibson- were long time ranchers and seasoned land stewards Joe Quiroga with Bill and Posey Piper and Richard Collins. They offered sage advice: “keep doing what you are doing”
Story by Laurie Monti
Local land owner, gardener, former sheep rancher.