2013 External Spotlights

Shannon Sworn in as Gila District Manager
Tim ShannonMore than 50 representatives of federal, state, and local agencies; partner organizations; and the business community joined the Bureau of Land Management to welcome Tim Shannon as the BLM's new Gila District Manager. The December 11 installation ceremony was followed by a reception at the Gila District/Tucson Field Office. .... Read more ....

More than 2,500 people traveled to Sonoita, Arizona, on Saturday, Nov. 2, and enjoyed a perfect autumn day at the Empire Ranch Roundup within the Las Ciénegas National Conservation Area .... Read more ....

Gila District Celebrates National Public Lands Day
by Diane Drobka, Public Affairs Specialist, Gila District, Arizona

Volunteers and BLM staff celebrated National Public Lands Day (NPLD) on September 28 in four southeastern Arizona public lands locations. Projects began in the early morning to improve Gila District public lands by clearing brush, gathering litter, enhancing habitat, improving trails, installing signs, and cleaning up debris left at recreational shooting areas. Blue skies and cooler autumn temperatures made all the hard work much more pleasant.
It was a great day at the Empire Ranch within the BLM’s Las Cienegas National Conservation Area near Sonoita. The Empire Ranch Foundation’s Wild About the Grasslands education director Gail Corkill led the day’s efforts, which included work along the Heritage Discovery Trail, geocaching training, and presentations on interpretive signage. Photos are posted on the Foundation’s Facebook page.
In Safford, Boy Scouts joined BLM recreation staff to clean up an unsightly target-shooting site. Volunteers led by park ranger Scott Ford removed a truckload and trailer full of trash, shell and bullet casings, and old targets, including large appliances that were taken to a local recycling center.
Volunteers clean up a trail to the riverAt the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (NCA), the Friends of the San Pedro River celebrated not only the 20th annual NPLD but also the 25th anniversary of the creation of the NCA. About 15 volunteers, including Friends president Ron Serviss and executive director Robert Weissler, met at the BLM’s San Pedro House east of Sierra Vista to work in the xeriscape demonstration garden there and to clear weeds and brush along the trail to the river.
Forty volunteers from the Friends of Ironwood Forest and Tucson Soaring Club tackled three project sites at the Ironwood Forest National Monument west of Marana. The Arizona Game and Fish Department led efforts in two areas to revitalize desert bighorn sheep water catchments by removing brush around them. Another group completed debris removal on public lands near the Cocio ranch house. Photos are posted on the Arizona Game and Fish Department Region V Facebook page.
Volunteers enjoying lunchVolunteers at all four NPLD projects enjoyed lunch outdoors and received beautiful burnt orange t-shirts honoring NPLD’s 20th anniversary. They were also given free passes for recreation sites on lands managed by the BLM, Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Volunteers clean up around a wildlife catchmentThe IFNM work groups met at the Soaring Club’s El Tiro Gliderport facility west of Marana. Joe Sheehy of the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society and Game and Fish wildlife manager Diane Tilton presented interesting educational talks about desert bighorns in the Silver Bell Mountains; they are the only remaining native population left in southeastern Arizona. Friends of Ironwood Forest executive director Lahsha Brown spoke about the importance of BLM National Conservation Lands and encouraged continuing support to the BLM.

Nationally, more than 180,000 volunteers celebrated NPLD #20 at nearly 2,100 parks, forests, refuges, public lands, and local sites such as community gardens, schools, rivers, and trails. Top national sponsors and partners included Toyota, Northrup Grumman, REI, Day to Serve, and the World Water Monitoring Challenge.  The complete list includes many organizations and agencies.

Growing Plants, Nurturing Youth
Greenhouse Supports Conservation and Careers
By Diane Drobka, Public Affairs Specialist

The Discovery Park Campus Greenhouse is located on a hill near the Circle D Ranch and Nature's Hideaway.

A new native plant greenhouse dedicated on September 20 marks a leap forward toward cost-effective landscape restoration and expanded opportunities for youth in a “growing” career in southeastern Arizona. Located at Eastern Arizona College’s (EAC) Discovery Park Campus in Safford, the project is a unique collaboration between EAC, the Gila Watershed Partnership of Arizona, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Safford Field Office. 

At an evening ribbon-cutting event for the community, EAC President Mark Bryce applauded that partnership and the greenhouse, saying that, while providing education, it will offer new employment opportunities for local students.

BLM Gila District Manager Tim Shannon echoed Bryce’s praise of the greenhouse partnership.  “The greenhouse is a great example of what can be done when people and organizations work together toward a common goal.” 

He specially thanked Safford Field Office natural resource specialist Jeff Conn for his vision and leadership in getting the project started in 2010. “Jeff worked with the BLM’s Native Plant Materials Development Program, which contributed $50,000 for the purchase of the greenhouse and supplies,” noted Shannon. “That was a major first step in the project.” Conn also secured a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant of $30,000. 

Conn has developed partnerships with Native Seeds/SEARCH, a Tucson-based nonprofit dedicated to native seed conservation, and Pollinators Notebook in Patagonia, Arizona, which provided native plants to distribute at the dedication.   

“This 3,000-square-foot greenhouse was developed with two major cultivation goals in mind: to grow native plants that will be used for riparian restoration and to nurture students’ interest and skills leading to careers in natural resources and horticulture,” said Shannon.

Two areas of public lands especially important to the BLM are the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area and San Simon Valley, where the BLM has devoted decades to habitat revitalization and watershed enhancement. The BLM and Gila Watershed Partnership are planning ahead for the eventual spread of the tamarisk leaf beetle into the Gila Valley by being prepared with native plants to replace the nonnative tamarisks (salt cedars) killed by the beetles.

Use of the greenhouse by EAC students and other youth in the community fits perfectly with Department of the Interior and BLM goals to support engagement of youth in hands-on education and experiences that will lead to careers in land management. “We’re looking to create our ‘workforce of the future’ and this project goes a long way toward that goal,” added Shannon.

Jan Holder, Executive Director of the Gila Watershed Partnership, shared Shannon’s enthusiasm for the project calling it “a great example of how working together we can do something great.” 

While noting that the Gila Watershed Partnership is a “small nonprofit,” she explained that, since 1992, they have completed over $7 million in projects and programs to benefit the Upper Gila Watershed. “We aren't big and splashy. We don’t have vehicles with our logo or even our own office; the BLM provides that for us.” commented Holder. “We want to see all the money we raise used on the ground.”

She acknowledged Graham and Greenlee counties, local cities and towns, organizations and businesses for their support.  She thanked the Walton Family Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program for their financial support. “This greenhouse will help us make our watershed a healthier place,” said Holder. “It will help educate our kids and put more dollars into their pockets and in our local economy.”

The Gila Watershed Partnership and EAC are currently hosting a newly created Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) crew that will be devoted to Upper Gila Watershed restoration projects on public lands, greenhouse work, and invasive plant removal. The Gila Watershed Crew will work four days and attend a biological research class at EAC one day each week, thus combining education and experience while learning leadership skills. In addition to the weekly stipend, students will receive a $1,468 AmeriCorps Education Award upon completion of the 12-week program.

Rick Stilgenbauer, Outreach Director from Senator John McCain’s Tucson office, was on hand to support the partners’ work and visit with community leaders.

Learn more about the partners and projects:

Arizona Community Celebrates Globally Important Bird Area 
By Diane Drobka, Public Affairs Specialist

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area wildlife biologist Heather Swanson and Arizona Audubon director of bird conservation Tice Supplee admire the new sign plaOne good celebration deserves another! That was certainly true for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area’s (SPRNCA) designation as a globally important bird area.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) in 1996 designated SPRNCA as North America’s first globally important bird area. It was recognized as a critical migratory bird corridor linking Central and South America to Canada and Arctic regions. 

Fast forward to 2013. Audubon has taken over the responsibility from the ABC for designating important bird areas. BLM wildlife biologist Heather Swanson, Huachuca Audubon volunteers, and avian specialists from southeastern Arizona reaffirmed the San Pedro’s vital significance.

“This is a place of hemispheric importance given the hundreds of species of migrating birds that rely on it,” said Sarah Porter, executive director of Audubon Arizona. “Protecting the San Pedro and other priority riparian habitats for migrating birds reliant on key western rivers in the Intermountain West is a primary focus for Audubon and its new multistate Western Rivers Action Network now being established to protect these places.”

As part of the annual daylong celebration of the 2013 International Migratory Bird Day, partners gathered at the BLM’s San Pedro House to once again proclaim the San Pedro as globally important. “The BLM is committed to ensuring that the avian habitats supported by the San Pedro River continue to flourish,” said Kathy Pedrick, acting BLM Gila District Manager. “We and our partners know that we must conserve, protect and enhance this special place for future generations.”

Tice Supplee, director of Bird Conservation for Arizona Audubon, is passionate about protecting the San Pedro. “This site is an exceptional example of riparian habitat that supports thousands of birds on migration and breeding,” she said. She praised the BLM for acquiring and protecting this special area.

So what makes the SPRNCA’s habitat so important? First and foremost:  the water. The river, in a strange twist of the usual circumstances, flows north from Sonora, Mexico, immediately entering the 57,000-acre unit of the National Landscape Conservation System. From there, it continues north, not always flowing, until it reaches the Gila River. The first 40 miles are within the SPRNCA, with some of the downstream waters managed by The Nature Conservancy, which considers the San Pedro one of America’s Last Great Places. It is the last undammed river in the Southwest.

Cottonwood-willow gallery forests, one of North America’s most endangered ecosystems, line parts of the river. Native grasslands, ciénegas (marshes), desert scrub, mesquite bosques (forests), and other native vegetation provide a diversity of habitats. This desert riparian ecosystem is home to more than 80 species of mammals, 14 species of fish, 41 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 100 species of breeding birds, which accounts for half of the breeding birds within the U.S. 

It also provides habitat for 250 species of migrant and wintering birds.  The Swainson’s hawk, for instance, makes a one-way migration of up to 7,500 miles between wintering areas in Brazil and Argentina to breeding sites in the western U.S. and southwestern Canada each year, covering 100 miles per day.

The birds that qualified the site as globally important are Arizona Bell’s vireo, western yellow-billed cuckoo, gray hawk, Lucy’s warbler, and Abert’s towhee, plus the diversity and numbers of neotropical migrants, primarily warblers.  Add to that the largest breeding population of gray hawks in the U.S. (40 percent of the population), and the largest yellow-billed cuckoo population in the U.S. (41 pairs in 1999) and its significance increases. 

Eighteen of the 19 hummingbird species in the nation migrate through or nest within the San Pedro’s riparian corridor, where BLM staff and local researchers operate a banding station at the BLM’s San Pedro House.  Adjacent Sierra Vista boasts that it is the “Hummingbird Capital of the U.S.” Nature tourism has a huge impact on Arizona’s economy. Keeping special places like the San Pedro healthy is not only important for the birds, it’s important to the local economy, and that’s another reason to celebrate.

Back at the International Migratory Bird Day event, activities continued, both educating and entertaining families. A live reptile exhibit, including a chance to hold non-poisonous snakes, was a big hit with the kids, as was the nestbox-building workshop. Gardening with native, low-water-use plants and rainwater harvesting were two of the interesting talks for adults. Walks along the river included separate tours for novices and advanced birders, and a third for families.

The day ended knowing that the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area Important Bird Area rededication was well deserved. For now at least, it is not only the first globally important bird area in Arizona, it is also the most recent to be dedicated.

For more about migratory birds and the San Pedro, visit:

Phoenix District Wins National Beacon Award
Employees Honored in Washington, D.C. for Use of Modern Technology in Visitor Services

BLM Acting Deputy Director Jamie Connell with Travel Management Specialist Tom Bickauskas and Public Affairs Specialist Pamela Mathis receiving Beacon Award presented by America Recreation Coalition President Derrick CrandallThe American Recreation Coalition (ARC) honored the Bureau of Land Management Phoenix District Office with the 2013 Beacon Award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. this June.

The national award recognizes innovative use of technology in visitor services and recreation management within seven federal agencies: Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

Public Affairs Specialist Pamela Mathis and Travel Management Specialist Tom Bickauskas were recognized in Washington, D.C. for the BLM Arizona’s Cell Phone - Quick Response (QR) Code Visitor Tours, which enable visitors to combine cell phone applications with innovative QR Codes to receive up-to-the-minute communications from public lands managers.

Visitors use their cell phones to call a local number and enter an extension that matches the location they're visiting. A recording provides safety alerts, fire information, safety tips for recreational target shooters, and recreational and/or historical points of interest. As the visitors travel designated routes, trails, and recreation sites, they are encouraged to call from each kiosk, campsite, parking area, or other major access point. The message informs the visitor about major attractions ahead or resources available at gateway towns. Recordings can be updated at any time, 24/7. The BLM partners with a third-party provider, On Cell that provides statistical data that reveals BLM visitors prefer using the QR codes. Stats also inform the agency where visitors are at and from which city or state they live. On Cell tracks the type of phone technology used, so the agency better understands what the public prefers. This data will help the agency capture visitor-use statistics and assist the agency in identifying and providing the types of information, maps, and videos that visitors find most helpful. 

The District is now using the service at the Table Mesa Recreation Area, the Agua Fria National Monument, the Boulders Recreation Area, and the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, with new services coming soon to the Sonoran Desert National Monument. (Contact Pamela Mathis: 623-580-5509)

Seven Youth Graduate from the Phoenix Field School Program

Students walking down the trail they createdAfter a semester of field certifications, training, and completing numerous natural resource conservation projects on Arizona public lands, the seven Phoenix youth enrolled in the 16-week Workforce Investment Act Conservation and Resource Management Field Certification Program- “Field School” –graduated on May 10, 2013. The graduation ceremony was held at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center at 3 p.m.

Throughout this past semester, the seven youth- Myriam Solorio, 21; Jazmine Lakey, 18; Jacob Noble, 19; Codey Primm, 19; Modesto “Rocky” Torrez, 18; Stephan Davis, 18; and Matthew Leach, 19-, have been hard-at-work obtaining valuable certifications and trainings such as Leave No Trace Trainer, Wilderness Advanced First Aid, U.S. Forest Service Chainsaw Certification, and Basic Wildland Firefighting, as well as completing 12 credits for select environmental courses at Phoenix College. The crew applied their trainings to multiple resource projects on public lands including a riparian habitat restoration project on the Agua Fria River, which included planting 200 trees along the river and erosion control; new trail construction on the Copper Mountain Loop of the Black Canyon National Recreational Trail, vegetation treatment for critical Desert Tortoise Habitat and many other such exciting tasks. Additionally, the youth assisted BLM biologists with various projects including riparian monitoring of the Agua Fria River and the construction of one hand-made benches using native Juniper timber on the Agua Fria National Monument.

This is the fourth youth crew to successfully graduate from Field School. The BLM Arizona leads the nation in this program that uses funding from the Department of Labor’s Workforce Investment Act to train and hire youth, ages 18 to 21 in natural resource management and conservation field certifications. The program provides hands-on work experience building and repairing trails, performing habitat restoration, and other natural resource related projects on National Monuments and public lands surrounding Phoenix, Arizona. The BLM partners with the Phoenix and Maricopa County Workforce Investment Boards which hire Arizona Call-a-Teen-Youth Resources (ACYR) to recruit and pay the youth and assist them in obtaining college credits at Phoenix College. BLM Arizona, through a competitive co-operative agreement, partners with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) to lead field certification trainings.

7,000 Phoenix-area children celebrate “El Día de los Niños” with BLM Arizona

BLM Arizona celebrated “El Día de los Niños,” or Day of the Children, on April 26 at a City of Phoenix event attended by more than 7,000 children. El Día De Los Niños is celebrated by many nations, particularly those in the Western Hemisphere. In Phoenix, the city’s Latino Institute produces an annual celebration. This year, the BLM was a primary partner.

The BLM staff presented two hands-on activities that introduced the children to archaeology and careers in the BLM. The first activity, called “Career Kickoff,” was a modified game of whiffle ball. The child hit the ball and ran the bases. However, at each base the child stopped and got information about the agency and careers with the BLM. At home plate, they were asked two questions pertaining to the agency’s mission or careers paths. If they answered both correctly they won a BLM Arizona Tori Tortoise book.

The second activity was an archaeological activity called “Messages in Stone.” BLM staff introduced the children to petroglyphs, referred to as rock art, and explained their presence on public lands and archeological importance.  The kids then were encouraged to paint their own stories on rocks.  The children were able to take their very own “petroglyphs” home. 

Special guests Seymour the Antelope and Smokey Bear also attend the event. A BLM firetruck was on the scene for the enjoyment of the kids, who of course wanted to touch it, sit in it, and sound the siren.

A diverse group of Phoenix-area children paint rock art at BLM AZ booth at Dia De los Ninos

Students, teachers, and parents visit the BLM Booth at Dia De Los Niños

A diverse group of Phoenix-area children paint rock art at BLM AZ booth at Dia De los Ninos

A diverse group of Phoenix-area children paint rock art at BLM AZ booth at Dia De los Niños

BLM Firefighter Leonel Chavez helps a boy into the BLM Firetruck, Firefighter , Juan Ledezma is next to him

BLM Firefighter Leonel Chavez helps a boy into the BLM Firetruck.  Firefighter Juan Ledezma is next to him.

A child painted a dinosaur track at De de Los Ninos

A child painted a dinosaur track at De de Los Niños

Seymour Antelop with Phoenix school children at Dia de Los Ninos April 26 2013

Seymour Antelop with Phoenix school children at Dia de Los Niños April 26 2013

Smokey the Bear playing baseball

Smokey the Bear playing baseball.

Reenactment Captures Struggles of Pioneers’ Journey 
(Read on ...)
Safford Field Office
Story by Diane Drobka
April 2013

Hualapai Indian Youth Rediscover Traditional Uses for Agave in Arizona 

Hualapai youth and tribal learn about Rediscover Traditional Uses for Agave in Arizona Lake Havasu Field OfficeSixteen members of the Hualapai Tribe, 11 of them children, got a look recently at ancient agave gathering station site.

The group, from the Peach Springs Hualapai Indian Reservation in Arizona, was guided by Dr. George Shannon, a BLM archaeologist, and Jonathan Azar, a law enforcement ranger. Both Shannon and Azar are assigned to the Lake Havasu Field Office.

Carrie Cannon (Hualapai ethnobotanist), Drake Havatone (Hualapai elder) and three other Hualapai adult chaperones joined the children, who were 8 to 11 years old, in the March 22, 2013, activity.

Shannon, who discovered the ancient Hualapai site in 2009, provided a guided tour of the site’s 9 roasting pit features, habitation areas, and artifacts to the group.  He discovered the site while surveying the area, walking parallel transects through the desert. The presence of circular roasting pits ringed by deep deposits of ash and charcoal caught his eye. These features are dead giveaways as markers of prehistoric habitation. The site is important because it contains stratified deposits that exhibit the entire range of the Yuman ceramic types, a chronology that dates from AD 300 to Historic Contact, circa AD 1600.  

Carrie Cannon provided the children with a lesson on the four types of agave found in the region. Drake Havatone instructed the children on the traditional uses of agave and provided a lesson in the Yuman language regarding the plant and its preparation.

In prehistoric times, each spring the Hualapai left their winter villages on the river in small, semi-nomadic bands to gather agave in the foothills and canyons. The Hualapai pursued an annual round -- a fairly regular pattern of movement -- to follow the sequence of ripening wild plants. In March and April, the bloom was on the agave stalk, signaling that the tuber underneath the plant was sweet and ripe for harvesting and roasting.  They dug up the agave tuber and baked in earth ovens (roasting pits) for several days. They ate the inner core. Then the women crushed the outer layers into a pulp, formed it into slabs, and dried in the sun. It was saved to be baked for food and syrup, or dried for bread flour, or mixed with water and fermented to drink.

The Hualapai brought the harvest back with them when they returned to their semi-subterranean homes along the lower Colorado River. There they beat the intense summer heat as they hunted, fished and planted maize, beans, and melon crops.

The group finished the day with a group prayer.  The students and adults formed a circle around one of the roasting pits while Havatone prayed in the Yuman language to the earth creator. As he addressed all four cardinal directions, the circle was bathed and purified in the smoked of sage incense.  A cool breeze swept up the canyon walls as the prayer was underway.  Havatone said the breeze signified that the ancestral Hualapai spirits were expressing their pleasure that the Hualapai were once again, after many hundreds of years, back on the site and practicing traditional Hualapai life ways.

BLM Arizona Honors Inner City Youth Grads in Fire Program 

of course there are firefighters on this cake!The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Arizona honored March 28 the graduating class from Phoenix’s Franklin Police and Fire High School. Eighteen youth completed the BLM sponsored wildland firefighting program, marking our 10thanniversary partnership with the Phoenix Union School District. The graduating class completed a 40 hour Type II Firefighters course, earning eligibility for entry-level federal employment. BLM Arizona State Director Ray Suazo delivered the key note address speaking in Spanish to the largely urban crowd. He noted that he began his federal career as a GS 3 seasonal firefighter. Suazo said, “This offers you so many opportunities. Your foot is in the door and your desire represents your community and families well.” Suazo praised BLM Instructor Dean Fernandez and Franklin’s Richard Verduzco for recognizing that youth represent the future. Franklin Principal Lorenzo Cabrera echoed the sentiment, saying, “This partnership shaped the hearts and minds of these students. This is the best fire management program in Arizona, and we couldn’t have achieved it without the BLM, the instructors, parents, and especially the graduates.” In order to graduate, the students had to endure not only the 40-hour classroom training, they also completed a tough field day building fire lines in rugged terrain by digging through a hard desert floor, handling fire starters, practicing survival in shelters, and carrying fire hose long distances. Graduate Abner Lopez, 17, said, “ I knew I wanted to be a firefighter as a kid, the instructor and the program helped me build my focus, leadership skills, and teamwork skills.” Lopez is now enlisted in the Air Force and hopes to pursue his firefighting goals in the military.

13,000-year-old Clovis site dedicated as a National Historic Landmark 

More than 80 ­­volunteers, visitors, and BLM staff celebrated the dedication of the Murray Spring Clovis Site National Historic Landmark on March 23. The event was hosted by the BLM Tucson Field Office, the National Park Service, and the Friends of the San Pedro River.

The dedication took place at the site, which is located within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) near Sierra Vista, Arizona. The two-hour event included speeches, the unveiling of a plaque noting the designation, exhibits of Clovis (distinctive spear) points and mammoth fossils, and docent-led tours.

Dr. C. Vance Haynes and Dr. Peter Mehringer, both from the University of Arizona, discovered this internationally important site in 1966.  Haynes led the excavation and research from 1967 to 1971. This Ice Age site yielded a multiple bison kill, a mammoth kill, and possibly a horse kill. Scattered across the buried occupation surface with the bones of late Pleistocene animals were several thousand stone tools and waste flakes from their manufacture and repair.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced his designation of the Murray Springs Clovis Site as a National Historic Landmark, which are nationally significant historic places, on October 17, 2012.

Among those in attendance was Dr. Barbara Mills, professor and director of the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and curator of archaeology at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson. Mills serves on the National Parks Advisory Board, where she was involved in reviewing and recommending Murray Springs as a National Historic Landmark.

Arizona State Director Ray Suazo highlighted the importance of cultural tourism in Arizona. “More than 87 percent of in-state travelers and 72 percent of out-of-state visitors list cultural heritage tourism as their main reason for traveling in Arizona. That illustrates just how important cultural resources are for our tourism economy,” he said.

Cochise County already boasts an amazing diversity of places to visit. Within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area alone, cultural sites span a 13,000-year period of time beginning with the Murray Springs Clovis Site and Lehner Mammoth-Kill Site. Visitors can “time travel” to visit the Spanish Presidio Santa Cruz de Terranate, abandoned in 1780, as well as mining towns such as Millville which, from 1881 to 1882, produced $1,380,336 in bullion. Thanks to recent restoration efforts, the 1920s schoolhouse at the former railroad town of Fairbank is used as a visitor center and bookstore.

Lane Baker, the Superintendent of Chiricahua National Monument, Fort Bowie National Historic Site, and Coronado Memorial noted the importance of Murray Springs. “Out of 2,540 National Historic Landmarks in the nation, none are older – or perhaps more deeply meaningful – than pivotal archeological sites such as this,” she said.  “Murray Springs has achieved our nation’s ultimate level of historical merit.”  She congratulated the BLM for protecting and interpreting Arizona’s 44th National Historic Landmark and thanked BLM archaeologist Jane Childress for her “determination to produce a nomination that was compelling, informative, and convincing.”

Childress recalled her favorite times working at the San Pedro. “Some of my best memories of Murray Springs are of bringing kids out here with the replica artifacts and the real mammoth teeth,” she said. “We had so much fun searching for micro-fossils. When kids are having fun, learning is easy.”

The keynote speaker was Dr. Vance Haynes. He shared his memory of discovering the site in 1966. “I knew immediately that it would be very important when I walked down Curry Draw and found mammoth bones poking out from the eroded dry streambed,” Haynes said. He and his colleague, Dr. Peter Mehringer, quickly made grant applications and it wasn’t long before the National Geographic Society and National Science Foundation were eager for them to get excavations started.

Haynes and his team from the University of Arizona labored for four years, yielding evidence of what would become the earliest well-documented culture in the Americas. The stone artifacts and fossil bones they found, allowed archaeologists, paleontologists, and other scientists to develop a better idea of what life was like for both the hunters and the hunted in the most recent Ice Age. Murray Springs came to be considered as among the most important archaeological sites of the day.

Murray Springs has been described as the largest single sample of Clovis flint-knapping activity known in the western United States. Also recovered was a remarkable mammoth-bone tool, interpreted to have been a spear shaft straightening wrench. It is 10 inches long and nearly one inch thick. The tool is the only one of its kind ever found in the Americas.

A hallmark of the Clovis culture is the distinctively shaped, fluted stone spear point named the Clovis point after Clovis, New Mexico, where they were first discovered in the 1930s.  The culture appears to have been short lived (300-500 years) yet Clovis sites are found throughout the United States, northern Mexico and southern Canada.

Haynes and members of the Friends of the San Pedro River displayed both original artifacts and casts of bones and points.  The dedication concluded with Friends docents leading tours of the site.

Murray Springs Dedication Ceremony

L-R Tia Bellew,  Dr. Barbara Mills, Dr. Lane Baker, Dr. Vance Haynes, 
Jane Childress, Ray Suazo, Kelly Castillo, Brian Bellew, child unknown

Learn more …

Visit - 
BLM Murray Spring Clovis Site webpage:

Read - 
Haynes, C. Vance Jr., editor. 2007.  Murray Springs: A Clovis Site with Multiple Activity Areas in the San Pedro Valley, Arizona.  ISBN 978-0-8165-2579-9

Empire Ranch Awarded $10,000 Humanities Grant 

historical photo of the Empire RanchA $10,000 grant will help the Empire Ranch Foundation showcase the cowboy and vaquero traditions of southeastern Arizona.

The grant, from the Arizona Humanities Council, will be used to develop the Cowboy Life Exhibit at the historic Empire Ranch in the 42,000-acre Las Cienegas National Conservation area, managed by BLM Arizona. The Foundation assists the BLM in caring for the ranch.

"Having this grant will enable the Empire Ranch Foundation to enhance their great work as volunteers at the ranch," said Las Cienegas NCA manager Mark Rekshynskyj. "We truly support and appreciate their outreach to youth and families, helping visitors learn more about the natural and cultural history of the ranch."

 “The exhibit will accent the vaqueros’ and cowboys’ traditions, methods of working with the cattle, as well as their journey stories,” said Alison Bunting, the project’s director. “It will also illustrate the cowboys’ daily lives, including social and family life and will be installed in the 1870s section of the Empire Ranch house where the cowboys bunked.”

The exhibit is to open February 8, 2014, on the ranch’s Family Fun Day.

The Empire Ranch Headquarters is situated in the rolling grasslands of the high Sonoran Desert, surrounded by the Mustang, Whetstone, Empire, and Santa Rita mountain ranges. It includes a 22-room adobe and wood-frame building which dates to 1870 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The BLM works closely with the Empire Ranch Foundation to preserve the house and other structures, host educational programs, and provide literature to tell the story of this special place.

Visit http://www.empireranchfoundation.org/RanchInfo.htm to learn more about the history of the ranch.

On Sunday January 27, 2013, members of the American Lands Access Association (ALAA) and Ye Old Timers Mineral Club (YOTMC), under the leadership of the Yuma Field Office Recreation staff members, held their First Annual Off-Road Clean-up of public lands. The event took place on public lands near I-10 exit 26, otherwise known as the Gold Nugget Road. Approximately 20 participants worked for several hours gathering years of accumulated trash and debris from the area.  The collected refuse was scattered over approximately five acres and weighed in at little over two tons! Removal of the trash from this heavily visited area increased the general health of the land as well as its aesthetic beauty. The event showcased the dedication of the two groups and the desire to maintain a beautiful landscape while enjoying their public lands.

Birders Wowed at Wings Over Willcox
Story and Photos by Diane Drobka, Safford Field Office

Birders and guides explored the Chiricahua Mountains to search for montane specialties.With perfect weather, nearly 30,000 Sandhill Cranes wintering in the Sulphur Springs Valley, and over 140 avian species, birders attending the 20th Annual Wings Over Willcox (WOW) Birding and Nature Festival couldn’t have asked for more. New tours, free talks and the Nature Expo kept everyone busy between tours. Live birds, reptiles, and amphibians on display were enjoyed by young and old.  

Guided tours started on Wednesday, January 16. These overnight tours visited the Chiricahua Mountains, a well-known birding locale, and the Galiuro Mountains and Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area, where the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), The Nature Conservancy, and Coronado National Forest are partners.

The opening ceremony for WOW began at Cochise Lake Nature Park, where Tucson Audubon Society Executive Director Paul Green, announced the new designation of the Willcox Playa and Cochise Lakes as a Global Important Bird Area (IBA). Green noted the importance of the area for Sandhill Cranes, which migrate as far north as Siberia in the summer to breed, as well as shorebirds and sparrow species. There are 42 IBAs in Arizona; only eight of these have the elevated status of Global IBA. 

Thousands of Sandhill Cranes could be viewed at the Arizona Electric Power Company’s (AEPCO) Apache Station Wildlife Viewing Area.Next, a ribbon-cutting celebrated a new bird-viewing deck at the Cochise Lakes Viewing Area. The deck was funded by WOW through participants’ purchases at the Silent Auction and general revenues generated during past festivals. Community support included a donation of time from Pioneer Title for title work on the acquisition of land for the deck. The City of Willcox provided the use of labor, equipment, and materials for the construction of a ramp for the viewing platform. The architectural design was donated by John Riggs, AIA, of Tucson.

Friday through Sunday featured tours to a variety of habitats to explore, everything from playa lowlands to the Chiricahua Mountain forests. Beginning birders were thrilled with everything they saw. Advanced birders came looking for specific birds for their “life lists” and were not disappointed. The present species count is 144 total for the weekend, a new record for WOW; this could increase as tour leaders submit all their species lists. Several new species were added to the list of birds seen during prior WOW weekends. Two were hummingbirds: Blue-throated and Magnificent.

Free one-hour seminars began on Thursday and continued until Saturday night. Topics included bats, leopard frogs and Arizona amphibians, bats, jaguars, lizards, cranes, turtles, plants, dragonflies and damselflies, eBird, geology, and wildlife photography.

Saturday night was capped with the banquet. Well-known naturalist, author, artist and conservationist, Kenn Kaufman, spoke about Birding in Outer Space, which actually meant looking into the future. He focused on the future that will be entrusted to our children and the importance of teaching them about nature and outdoor ethics at an early age. He acknowledged the great work that Jennie Duberstein of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sonoran Joint Venture has done by introducing kids to nature, including tours and workshops in Spanish.

Birds were not the only critters that drew the attention of tour-goers; mammals seen included Pronghorn Antelope, White-tailed Deer, Coatimundi, and Javelina.

Back at the Community Center, visitors got up-close views of live animals provided by Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center, Liberty Wildlife, and the Huachuca Area Herpetological Association.

Displays included snakes, lizards, frogs, toads, scorpions, centipedes, and spiders. Children got a thrill by holding one of several species of kingsnakes (common, gray-banded, black) or a gopher snake. Free nest-box-building workshops on Friday and Saturday taught youth about cavity-nesting birds and how to construct and paint a wooden box to take home for their backyard birds.

On stage, exhibitors showcased a Bald Eagle, Great-horned and Burrowing owls, Red-tailed and Harris’s Hawk, American Kestrel, Black-crowned Night Heron, and more.

WOW definitely has positive impacts on the community. “There were 468 registrants and 43 sold-out tours,” stated Connie Bonner with the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and very active WOW planning team member. “Attendees came from 24 states, including 40 cities in Arizona, and two Canadian provinces.”

Bonner continued, stressing the importance of the cranes and WOW to rural tourism and its benefits to the local economy. “We gave out over 300 maps showing locations to view the Sandhill Cranes and most of those were to people who were not registered for a tour.” “It reinforces our usual ‘guestimate’ that our attendance is at least double those registered when one considers walk-ins,” added Hansen.

So check out the WOW website, http://www.wingsoverwillcox.com/, to see what you missed and learn more about this wonderful festival.

Mark your calendar and plan to attend next year:
January 15-19, 2014.

A Mexican Jay visited one of the tour vans.

Acting Gila District Manager Kelly Castillo addressed the
ribbon-cutting ceremony audience.

Two Harris’s Hawks are perched on a
Willcox power pole.


Keynote speaker Kenn Kaufman signed his books.

 A Javelina with its young darted
across the road during a tour.

Children built simple
nest boxes with
some help from adults.

A Bald Eagle on stage was easy to photograph.

A well-traveled birder loved his time at WOW.

2011-2012 Spotlights