Restoring the Physical Environment
The grasslands, woodlands, and cienegas of the borderlands of southern Arizona and northern Sonora once supported exceptionally rich natural areas teeming with wildlife. Ground water withdrawals, overgrazing, and poor mining and agricultural practices over the course of two centuries left this area severely degraded. Many formerly perennial streams dried up and vegetative cover declined to the point where the sparse vegetation could no longer slow runoff. High-energy flooding left behind highly eroded streambeds. Wildlife declined, grasslands lost much of their soil, and, in many places, native grasses were lost and replaced by invasive thorn scrub.
Borderlands, with funding from the Walton Family Foundation, is currently working on restoring flowing water to the Babocomari River, a tributary of the San Pedro and eventually, the Gila River.
Borderlands Restoration has developed a unique approach to ecosystem restoration based on the experiences of Cuenca los Ojos and other restoration efforts in the region. CLO has constructed tens of thousands of berms, gabions and small rock dams to restore natural water flow. These structures slow the flow of water and stabilize the creeks, increase infiltration, and allow sediments to accumulate. Despite the drought conditions of the past decade, streams are once again flowing and vegetation and wildlife are returning. CLO is also restoring thousands of acres of shrub-invaded grasslands by removing thorn scrub and replanting with native grasses. In less than five years, the grasses and many native animal species are becoming reestablished. In addition to restoring upland streams and grasslands, CLO is restoring the Rio San Bernardino in northeastern Sonora– already the results are apparent, with perennial stream flow returning to a five mile stretch of the river and over 2000 acres of new riparian vegetation.