Verbal high fives and high praise punctuated the festive mood in the Sonoita Fairgrounds’ Pioneer Hall on Saturday evening, Nov. 12, as benefactors, funders, founders, staff and volunteers of Borderlands Restoration Network and Wildlife Corridors, LLC gathered to celebrate their remarkable successes in preserving threatened wildlife habitat and restoring degraded landscapes in the borderlands of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico.
BRN Executive Director Kurt Vaughn kicked off the evening’s activities by welcoming 60 guests, then reviewing an impressive list of achievements of his organization and its network partners: Wildlife Corridors, LLC; Cuenca Los Ojos; Borderlands Restoration, L3C; and Deep Dirt Farm. With a slide presentation running in the background, Vaughn acknowledged that his time at the BRN helm would soon be ending, then went on to highlight the myriad restoration and conservation programs the organization has carried out during his tenure. And to emphasize that BRN did not work alone to achieve its successes he said, “Behind every slide there’s a deeper story of collaboration, connection and change.”
Following a dinner catered by Anita Clovesko-Wharton, with desserts from the Farmers Daughter, and wine donated from local vineyards Dos Cabezas, Rune, and Deep Sky, Ron Pulliam, Wildlife Corridors founding member and Managing Partner, continued the theme of collaboration by thanking everyone for their roles in supporting the work being celebrated on this occasion. He gave special recognition to Cuenca Los Ojos founder Valer Clark whom he credited with not only restoring the natural flow of water over tens of thousands of acres of degraded borderlands ranchland but providing inspirational leadership for those who are building on her pioneering restoration work.
Pulliam then explained that Wildlife Corridors, LLC was formed in 2014 to purchase the foreclosed Three Canyons subdivision largely to set aside most of the development’s nearly 1400 acres as a wildlife preserve. That purpose was fulfilled with the creation of the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve which has already expanded to about 1800 acres and will soon grow beyond that as additional adjacent properties are purchased or placed under easements by conservation-minded owners. Pulliam noted that the preserve now permanently protects critical wildlife habitat where approved residential subdivisions would have permitted upwards of 200 lot owners to build houses in the heart of the Sonoita Creek Wildlife Corridor, one of the most important wildlife corridors in the country.
The event attracted officials from major funding agencies and organizations as well as individual donors that enabled WC and BRN to purchase, protect and manage the parcels that now make up the preserve. A huge portion of the funds came from the U.S. Forest Service in the form of a $1,033,000 grant from its Forest Legacy Program which is administered in Arizona by the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. Laura Moser, Cooperative Forestry Program Manager for the USFS SW Region, who attended the event, indicated that more Forest Legacy funds may be available to secure protection of additional land and Matthew Jewell, who heads up the program in Arizona said ADFFM is encouraging WC and BRN to apply for those funds.
The evening’s festivities ended with a presentation on global warming by Dr. Terry Root, Senior Fellow Emerita, at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment. A longtime supporter and member of Wildlife Corridors, LLC, Dr. Root is also the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize which she was awarded in 2007 for her work on climate change.
Dr. Root used several data charts to document the substantial challenges facing not only humanity but all species because of global warming, which she said is undeniably caused by human activity. She ended her talk on an optimistic note by telling the audience very specifically how global warming can be reversed with widespread adoption of more sustainable eating practices and electing public officials who will support policies that limit harmful emissions from all sectors of the economy. With obvious conviction, she declared, “We know how, and we can do it!”