Borderlands Restoration began around 2012. Since then, we have managed to accomplish quite a lot. Please also see our Events Page.
Reflections from the beginning, written by David Seibert April, 2014:
Borderlands Restoration is a limited-profit company established in 2012 for the purposes of restoring degraded habitat, protecting land and water, and supporting habitat restoration work and community outreach. Our sister non-profit, Borderlands Habitat, is guided by the same goals. The two organizations working in tandem enable us to align and merge public and private support, from financial investments to grants to outright donations, and thereby to create broad appeal across multiple scales and social groups. In a similar spirit of service and action, we offer ecological research and consultation services to both public and private entities, landowners, and managers, with an emphasis on work that solves shared land management and restoration problems in complex, multi-jurisdiction landscapes. Research and on-the-ground work to date include fire
management and planning; hydrological restoration and erosion control; plant collection/growout/re-vegetation; and similar wildlife habitat improvements that now engage over a dozen part- and full-time employees and volunteers that range from 5 to 90 years of age. Partners now include several schools and local non-profits that depend on us to support their programs, and to provide ready platforms for education, outreach, and curricula development.
While our specific efforts in the region are relatively young, we build on 30 years of highly successful habitat restoration work by partners such as Cuenca los Ojos, on privately owned ranches in Arizona and Sonora. We seek to incubate and foster similar restoration activities throughout the US-Mexico borderlands region. Current projects include establishment of community pollinator gardens, restoration workshops, and citizen science participation in restoring habitat and monitoring the impacts. In spite of our youth, yet due to our wealth of experience and the extensive social networks we build and maintain, we have received positive attention from agencies and individuals who crave innovative pathways toward collaborative work. Through a small 2013 BLM grant, we continue to develop a rapid habitat health bio-assessment protocol for broad inter-agency use, and we are experimenting with over 75 species of native plants in two new greenhouses, including three acres of farmland provided through an Agreement with the non-profit Native Seeds SEARCH. This work requires botanical inventories of key ecological sites, often on public lands, to determine which species are reduced across the region. A substantial emphasis of the BLM agreement is on fruiting pollinator plants because of their key role in the food chain, and the resultant support of faunal diversity.
In a similar effort, we have coordinated funding from the Walton Family Foundation, USGS, and NFWF to conduct fire planning, develop a decision-support tool for habitat interventions, install hundreds of erosion control/moisture retention structures and monitor their effectiveness, and to collect, grow, and plant native pollinator plants that have been extirpated from the nectar landscape due to drought and degradation. We also have Fish and Wildlife Service projects to create an endangered species refuge
pond on private land, and to install rock erosion structures with pollinator-supporting plants on a private Forest Service inholding. Like the projects described above, these sites are also public demonstration efforts that offer opportunities for people to engage and to experience work at the public-private nexus. Over time, the development and dissemination of conservation information through publications, workshops, and training courses will lead to an increase in the number of sources for plant material, to clear pathways toward quickly-permitted collection and incorporation into broader efforts, and to cost reductions and more effective collaborative restoration programs.
In coordination with extensive restoration database development with multiple agencies, we have forged novel Collaborative Agreements that stem from the BLM model. The US Forest Service has recently hammered out an Agreement to provide resources, when available, to all facets of Borderlands’ work. We began with a $2,000 “seed” source for rare plant and pollinator surveys. While this is a meager start, we anticipate that the Agreement will position Borderlands and our partners to receive unclaimed or earmarked funds in the future. Building on this effort, the National Park Service and Borderlands are on the verge of creating a small but novel Agreement whereby we guide volunteer seed collection on Park lands, receive the seed for grow-out and experimentation, and return healthy pollinator-supporting plants for Park restoration projects. We have also recently begun to support Monarch Watch in their efforts to educate people and improve milkweed/monarch refugia, and have entered into a contract that has Borderlands successfully growing milkweeds that other growers cannot at this critical time. We currently have several thousand plants in four restoration project areas that we continue to monitor, and we are on schedule to produce another 60,000 plants in 2014. With expanded grow-out support and willing restoration buyers, we can expand to more than 100,000 plants annually.
These are the kinds of efforts that engender innovation and action and that, unfortunately, also tend to be supported at small scales and for brief periods, posing a serious challenge to social and ecological resilience. As a response and in summary, Borderlands Restoration believes that we have identified and begun to address multiple ecosystem, management, and response variables at the intersections of healthy habitat, pollinator support, and public engagement and capacity building. We believe that the number of collaborators working on public and private land; the critical species reinvigorated through our work; the networks created and maintained; and the persistence with which we go about our efforts, often with limited financial support, are all important measures of success under challenging conditions. The will and the drive are certainly “in place” today; now it is up to us all to support and to cultivate the efforts together.
Here are some highlights from 2013:
- We developed new methodology for conducting Rapid Restoration Assessments to identify native plant species needed for restoration (Task I). We conducted a prototype assessment on public and private land in the Dos Cabezas/ZZ/Cienega Ranch region. We also monitored detailed plant phenology and demography at three sites (The Patagonia Nature Conservancy, Deep Dirt Farm Institute, and Harshaw Creek/Hummingbird Monitoring Network headquarters) in the Patagonia area and established a new monitoring site at El Coronado Ranch. We visited potential assessment and monitoring sites in the Safford/Morenci area and began discussions with landowners about establishing a new site in Guadalupe Canyon;
- We identified lists of priority plant species for specific restoration sites and for targeted conservation goals (Hummingbirds, Frugivores, Erosion Control, etc.) and collected native seeds of the priority species at numerous locations where current or future restoration work is targeted;
- We grew more than 10,000 native restoration plants (Task IIa) to the one gallon or larger stage for use in restoration sites and pollinator/wildflower gardens. The plants were grown at both Deep Dirt Farm Institute and at our renovated greenhouse facilities at Native Seed Search in the Patagonia area and at the El Coronado Ranch (Chiricahua Mountains, with Borderlands partner Cuenca los Ojos);
- We developed new field methodologies and implemented increaser fields for 6 species of native grass species and for pollinator plants (Task IIb) at Native Seed Search. The increaser fields were hand-weeded and the plants were grown without pesticide application, with extensive planting and maintenance data recorded. This data is now informing Borderlands’ movement into a 3-acre plot at Native Seed that will extend our relationship and enable increased production and learning about more species requirements and grow out needs;
- We planted over 2700 native pollinator plants on four restoration sites (3 in the Patagonia area and 1 at El Coronado Ranch) and monitored the survival, growth, and reproduction, and effort that Borderlands will continue long-term with combined BLM and Hummingbird Monitoring Network support;
- We led over twenty community workshops on plant propagation, pollinator gardens, erosion control, water harvesting, and seed biology. We engaged over 400 individuals who volunteered over 10,000 hours of time in participating in the workshops and in related restoration workdays. We also gave presentations to more than forty community, civic, government, and university groups throughout southern Arizona.