BLM Arizona completes important land acquisition

Story and photos by June Lowery, Public Affairs Officer

The BLM and partners Trust for Public Lands and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) recently completed the Cross F land acquisition, supporting the Biden-Harris administration’s “America the Beautiful” Initiative through ensuring the continued conservation and better public access to two key Arizona wilderness areas and other surrounding public lands.

map showing the lands that are northeast of Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness and that were acquired as part of the land acquisition
Map of Cross F land acquisition

The “America the Beautiful,” Initiative is a decade-long challenge to pursue a locally led and voluntary, nationwide effort to conserve, connect, and restore America’s lands, waters, and wildlife.

The Gila District’s Safford Field Office acquired, from the Trust for Public Lands, 2,831 acres of privately owned land northeast of the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, known as the Cross F Ranch and received, from AZGFD, an easement donation to facilitate additional access in the same general area. The actions conserve land and open access to 30,000 acres of formerly inaccessible BLM managed public lands. Additional supporting partners include the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy.

The acquisition area protects an important watershed contributing an estimated 40% of the water supply for Aravaipa Creek. The creek is a 23-mile riparian corridor with perennial flow that contains one of the best remaining assemblages of native desert fish in Arizona and is part of the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. The creek also provides habitat for numerous federally listed bird and fish species.

The lands acquired provide important linkages between BLM-managed lands in the Galiuro and Santa Teresa Mountain areas, including Aravaipa Canyon and the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, and U.S. Forest Service lands in the Santa Teresa Mountains, including the Santa Teresa Wilderness, as well as intermingled Arizona State Trust lands.

looking across at a rocky area with many green trees dotting the hillsides
Entrance to Cross F lands

The land acquisition was completed using the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which supports the protection of federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and voluntary conservation on private land. This LWCF acquisition also improves and protects wildlife corridors for mule deer, white-tailed deer, desert big horn sheep, black bear, and Gould’s turkey. Investments through the LWCF secure public access, improve recreational opportunities and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities.

“Partnerships like this are an important part of successful land management,” said Safford Field Manager Scott Cooke.” Since the completion of the acquisition, we have received calls of support from the conservation community and interested recreationists excited to visit areas they could not previously access.” 

looking down a dirt road with beautiful mountains in the distance and a canyon on the left side. There is a very blue sky overhead with quite a few white wispy clouds
Aravaipa Road looking towards the community of Klondyke