Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Malpais Borderlands Group

Rancher and conservationist Warner Glenn signs a poster of his latest jaguar photo, taken near his ranch in southern Arizona.

Around the world, The Nature Conservancy works as a partner with rural communities, farmers and ranchers. Conservation easements remain a powerful tool for protecting rural economies and wildlife habitat.

The Idaho Chapter works with ranchers on many projects, including in the Owyhee Canyonlands, Henry’s Lake, Silver Creek, the Pahsimeroi River Valley and the Kootenai Valley.

On a recent trip to southern Arizona, I had the opportunity to visit another successful Conservancy partnership with ranchers. The Malpais Borderlands Group of Arizona is a grassroots group of ranchers who have created a non-profit organization to demonstrate that ranching and conservation can thrive together. Their work includes conservation easements, fire management, endangered species conservation and an active research program.

Their seminars showcasing their conservation-minded ranching have drawn people from all over the world—including Masai herders from Kenya, Mongolian park managers and U.S. livestock ranchers—to their ranches along the Mexican border. The project also published a recent book, Working Wilderness.

Ranchers Warner and Wendy Glenn, who own the Malpais Ranch, hosted Nature Conservancy staff on their ranch during my trip. Warner is well known not only as a rancher and conservationist, but also as one of the best lion hunting guides in the West. In 1996, his hounds located a jaguar in southern New Mexico, near the project. Glenn photographed this beautiful animal and wrote a booklet on it, using this to showcase the importance of conservation in this region.

This year, he once again saw a jaguar in New Mexico. He is the only person to have seen a jaguar in the United States in the past decade. Glenn speaks of the thrill of seeing these elusive animals and the need for large-scale conservation projects that continue to allow them to roam into the United States. It was inspiring to hear this articulate conservationist talk about this beautiful country and the amazing wildlife found in it.

Later we hiked into the Arizona grasslands where this jaguar was spotted. It is still wild, rugged country. While the chances of seeing a jaguar are incredibly small, it is nice knowing that these beautiful animals still roam here. And it’s even nicer to know that the work of ranchers in the Malpais Borderlands Group will provide habitat for jaguars and other animals for future generations.

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