Randi Trantham and Zach Farley plant native grass plugs as part of the restoration work BRN is doing in Smith Canyon outside Patagonia.

This has been a busy year for Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN). The organization has had great success with its Agave for Bats program (highlighted previously in the PRT), is working on watershed restoration in Smith Canyon, collaborated with the USDA on documenting and collecting crop wild relatives, and built a lasting collaboration with the Huachuca City Community Garden.

In collaboration with the Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality, Arizona Game and Fish Dept., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, BRN staff has implemented various watershed restoration techniques across Smith Canyon in an effort to address habitat degradation concerns. Restoration treatments within Smith Canyon were designed to reduce erosion impacts and nonpoint source pollution downstream, with the goal of improving the overall ecological function of the watershed.

Also, in collaboration with the Gornish Lab of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, BRN tested the effectiveness of various planting methods on reducing erosion in Smith Canyon. Planting methods included seedling out-planting (plugs), pelletized seed addition, and bare seed addition. 

This summer, BRN’s Native Plant Program team also continued its collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, with support from the USDA Agricultural Resource Service, to document and collect crop wild relatives in the Wild Chile Botanical Area (WCBA) of the Tumacacori Highlands and surrounding public lands for future research and safeguarding of genetic material that may play a role in food security in the face of hotter, drier conditions. 

As defined by the U.S. Forest Service, a crop wild relative is “a plant species occurring in the ‘wild’ that is a species from which the crop was domesticated, or a closely related species in the same genus to a particular domesticated crop species.” Crop wild relatives may contribute genetic material to crop species, which may provide for increased disease resistance, fertility, higher crop yield or other desirable traits. 

At least 45 species of crop wild relatives occur in the watershed on the east side of the Tumacacori Mountains. Many of these species have proven to have potential as genetic resources for improvement of domesticated crops already being grown commercially. This area, one of the most botanically interesting areas in southern Arizona, is home to numerous plant species that are at the northern extent of their range and grow in few other locations in the United States. 

This year the primary objective is to continue locating, inventorying and collecting seeds and identify specimens of priority species for conservation and research. This is being done primarily in the WCBA and Coronado National Forest land in the Tumacacori Highlands, Santa Rita Mountains and Patagonia Mountains. Results of these plant inventories will be used to determine if further protective designation for the WCBA should be pursued as an Important Genetic Resource Reserve for plant species in addition to the wild chile. 

Huachuca City Community Garden 501(c)(3) grows organic vegetables, delivering nutritious food to community members in need every week. In December 2019, the Huachuca City Community Garden received a grant from the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona to expand the garden into a two-acre space adjacent to the Huachuca City Public Library. 

Starting in June 2020, community stakeholders came together to build the floodwater mitigation project. Soldiers from Fort Huachuca, part of C Company of the 2nd-13th Aviation Regiment, volunteered to line the basins with rock. Residents of Matt’s House, dedicated to supporting people recovering from addiction, planted the native pollinator attracting hedgerow, and BRN led weekly volunteer workshops to finish the rainwater-harvesting basins between June and September 2020. 

The hard work of the Huachuca City community will have a lasting impact for humans and nonhumans alike. The 14 rain basins designed, built, and planted in collaboration with the Huachuca City community have the capacity to hold 35,000 gallons of rainwater. Borderlands Restoration Network is committed to supporting further garden development and educational workshops, nurturing the long-term health and well-being of the people of Huachuca City long into the future.