Responding to the extinction crisis in the Sky Islands

View from the top of the Huachuca Mountains looking south across the Sky Islands.

It’s been a tough month of bad news for wildlife, water, and all of us that call the Sky Island region home. Amidst a raft of destructive proposals, the UN released a new definitive report on the state of our natural world.

A two-tailed swallow tail and Arizona sister  looking for water and nutrients in leaf litter

The report details the destruction we humans have wreaked on Earth’s web of life and the risks posed to our own well-being. Nearly 1,000,0000 species are threatened with extinction due to our actions. I’ve found myself heartbroken these last weeks for all we’ve lost and all we still stand to lose.  So much of the natural world is vanishing and will continue to do so to our great detriment unless we make radical changes. The reasons so many of our plant and animal neighbors are threatened is not new. Changes in land use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive species are the main drivers.

The 145 expert authors of the report conclude that the only scenario that will slow negative trends is one of transformative change, a fundamental, system-wide reorganization of the way we approach technological, economic, and social factors.

The authors point out that all is not yet lost. If we give nature a fighting chance, it can persist and thrive.  

According to preeminent biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson, the Madrean Sky Island region of the U.S. and Mexico is one of the “best places in the biosphere” due in part to its role as a North-South corridor, allowing species to move and adapt to climate change.  And the Sky Island region is vital to sustaining so many species that make up the vast diversity of life found on this continent.

Here at Sky Island Alliance we’re on the frontlines working to give nature a fighting chance.

Jaguar, coati and desert tortoise are three of the many species that call the Sky Islands home.

The founders of Sky Island Alliance recognized the importance of this amazing place nearly three decades ago when they created this organization to protect and restore the diversity of life and landscapes of the Sky Islands. At that time, the region was poorly defined and little studied. Since then, Sky Island Alliance has worked with many allies to develop a deeper understanding of the region, forged a research and management agenda to respond to changes, built a shared culture across the border, and expanded our knowledge of the region’s biodiversity.

We now know what is at stake, as a border wall gets built across wildlife corridors and rivers, as temperatures reach extreme highs and heat waves persist far longer, as once reliable streams and springs shrink or dry.  We also know what’s at stake when we cannot work together across borders.

Volunteers installing native plants at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Over the past several decades, Sky Island Alliance has invested much time and energy fostering transformative change: transforming damaged streams, springs, and mountainsides back to diverse thriving health; transforming the public’s relationship to the Sky Islands through hands-on work to heal the land; changing how hundreds of organizations, agencies and research institutions work together and share information; and transforming the next generation of scientists who are in school right here in the Sky Islands into advocates dedicated to caring for this amazing place.


Staff member Bryon Lichtenhan installing native plants with intern Emily Patterson who graduated with a BS in Natural Resources this May.

Transformative change is not easy, and as Vincent Van Gogh said “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” More than ever, Sky Island Alliance must embody our name, building a strong alliance of organizations, agencies, policy makers and residents working across the Sky Island region in U.S. and Mexico to do small things every day that add up to great things.

We need you more than ever. We need your help to build the Alliance of people working to save the diversity of life in our Sky Islands.

I will be in touch this coming year as we fight destructive proposals in the region: proposals like the Rosemont Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains that would obliterate a vital part of the Path of the Jaguar and harm precious remaining springs and streams; and, of course, the proposed new border wall through the heart of the Sky Island region that would doom Jaguars to extinction in the U.S. and further damage rivers that are the lifeblood of the region.

Our work continues, planting one blooming plant at a time, restoring one spring at a time, and engaging one person at a time.

I will also be in touch to ask for your help, as volunteers, donors, and strong voices for the Sky Islands to build a bigger and fiercer Alliance. Sustaining the Sky Island region isn’t just about helping our wild neighbors thrive; it’s about ensuring our own quality of life and survival.

In solidarity with our wild neighbors,
Louise Misztal, Executive Director


Take Action Today

  1. Grow the Alliance the of people who are engaged in celebrating and protecting our amazing Sky Islands. Share this post with two friends you think would learn something new or through your social media accounts! [ssba-buttons]
  2. Become a Volunteer and join us in hands-on work to heal damaged ecosystems and study the wildlife and waters of the Sky Islands.
  3. Donate now to support our work to protect and restore the diversity of life and landscapes in the Sky Islands.