In 2022 the United Nations Development Program, Coca-Cola Foundation, and Ayuda en Acción in México launched a call for project proposals to enhance the health of rivers in priority basins.
In partnership with Profauna, an environmental nonprofit in México, Sky Island Alliance applied and won. In our case, we proposed to do conservation work to benefit the Río Sonora, which begins in the Sky Islands south of Bisbee and east of Cananea, and provides water to more than one million people on its way to the Gulf of California.
In Sonora, achieving the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems is different from how it’s done in Arizona, where there are large tracts of public land. In Mexico only 0.28% of the land belongs to the government, so it’s necessary to cultivate relationships and work directly with landowners. For this project, we’ll be working with families that live in Evans Canyon and building on work we’ve done in the past in this special area with the Ríos Colores family at Rancho Agua de Enmedio.
Our project will take a year to complete and has several conservation strategies that’ll benefit the ranch, ecosystem, and towns downstream:
1) Exclusion fences: On stream banks, we’ll install fences that are friendly to wildlife but limit access to livestock. This will give new plants and trees a chance to grow so they can benefit the ecosystem.
2) Contouring: We’ll do a number of earthworks projects to help retain sediments that flow toward the river and slow down water on slopes. This will help native plants take root and thrive.
3) Electric fences for cattle rotation: When carrying out intensive grazing for short periods of time in a small area, other lands will be allowed a rest, letting new vegetation grow.
4) Native plant nursery: We’ll be cultivating a wide range of native plants so we can successfully reforest the river and restore surrounding hills and valleys.
5) Erosion control: By building simple rock structures in strategic places within streams and gullies, we’ll be able to slow down water, build up soils, and replenish these waterways.
6) Wildlife monitoring: We plan to install remote cameras throughout the area so we can better understand where animals are present and absent on the landscape. This will help guide future projects and decision-making.
Over the coming months, we’ll be giving workshops and carrying out these activities with volunteers. So stay tuned and follow us on our networks, so you can join us for this important work and some outdoor fun.