Where We Work
The Border Region:
The Sky Island region, with an estimated 4,000 plant species, untold number of invertebrates including over 600 species of bees alone, and almost 500 species of vertebrates, remains one of the most biologically diverse semi-arid and subtropical eco-regions of North America despite 10,500 years of documented human history, including four centuries of Euro-American exploitation. This exceptional diversity results from the confluence of four great biogeographic domains and the intermingling of their unique floras and faunas. Because of the rugged topography and arid climate, much of the biological wealth of the region has remained mostly intact, but that is changing rapidly. Urban development, persistent drought, and disappearance of streams and riparian forests are resulting in highly fragmented landscapes and in increasingly isolated and imperiled wildlife populations.
The exceptionally high diversity of plants and animals of the U.S. Sky Islands results from natural corridors linking the isolated mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona and southwestern N.M. to the Sierra Madre massif.
The key to ensuring the survival of the unique biological diversity of the Sky Islands region is protecting the migratory corridors linking the otherwise isolated mountain ranges. Predominately north-south oriented mountain ranges and their parallel river valleys form natural corridors of movement from northern Mexico into the United States for many animal species.
The landscape prioritization process is most useful if multiple values and threats are identified from the start. To begin, when considering a specific corridor design, scientists, planners, and local residents can all be asked what it is that should be protected and what the threats are to the things that need protection and what are the risks or threats associated with the potential management actions under consideration. The crucial step is allowing all participants to participate in identifying what is important to them and what the risks are. The result, as illustrated below, is almost always a list that goes beyond simply listing the biological values and threats to include diverse social and cultural values rarely considered by biologists.
What needs to be protected ? What are the threats?
– Rare species and habitat – Habitat degradation
– Landscape connectivity – Loss of open spaces
– Recreational opportunities – Species extirpation or extinction
– Access to public land – Water loss or diversion
– Water resources – Loss of land/water productivity
– Economic contributions – Hazards (fire, flooding)
– Educational opportunities – Intergenerational equity
– Health and spiritual renewal – Regulations and legal battles
– Working Landscapes – Market fluctuations
– Cultural & Historical Traditions – Suburbanization
The process of identifying values and threats will bring more players to the table, lead to a wider array of management options, and can result in win-win solutions. For example, concerns that land acquisitions may limit recreational opportunities might be addressed by including access right away to public land or appropriate hiking and recreational opportunities on the acquired land. Reluctance of adjacent landowners to participate in joint management activities might be alleviated by forging Safe Harbor agreements and facilitating permits that assure landowners that their participation and success will not be punished for good behavior. Finally, appropriate agricultural and grazing uses, such as grass banking and leases for small scale farming on protected lands might result in more economic opportunities for local landowners and generate local support for long-term stewardship of the corridors.
Above taken from:
A White Paper prepared by Borderlands Restoration, L3C
Importance of Biodiversity:
Biodiversity is the foundation of our existence. Each species is a node in the web of life on Earth. The interactions between various species make up the interconnections or the strands between these nodes. When a strand is broken, we hope there are enough species nodes and relational strands to support the rest of the web. Strands of the web of life can be broken by environmental stress such as weather events, pollution, and habitat degradation to name a few. As more and more strands are broken, we begin to lose nodes – species go extinct. Our web begins to have holes. With holes, our web of life becomes less resilient to environmental stress. We need biodiversity to survive.
Scientists have been attempting to quantify the value of biodiversity to human existence. This is accomplished by looking at the ecosystem services species provide. In 2005, a series of reports called the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment or MA, was produced. These reports were the synthesis of the work of some 1,900 scientists world-wide. The mission was to assess the consequences of ecosystem change on human well-being. You can read about it here. This is only one group of many to attempt to quantify the importance of biodiversity.
Now that we are beginning to understand the importance of biodiversity; we can make decisions that are more likely to enhance the diversity of life on our planet. This is the intention behind the work of Borderlands.