Partnership Helps Conserve Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in Arizona
The Cienega Watershed Partnership’s mission is to conserve the nationally significant resources of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, located near Tucson, Arizona, and part of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System. The partnership brings together numerous players in such efforts as recovering endangered species, engaging youth in restoration, preserving cultural resources, conducting scientific investigations, and recording oral histories of the region.
One such project, the FROG Conservation Project, focuses on recovering populations of native fish and threatened leopard frogs by removing nonnative species and enhancing habitat. Partners have created new leopard frog breeding populations, developed refugia habitats, eliminated nonnative aquatic species, planted native aquatic plants, and engaged local communities.
Another project, the Youth Engaged Stewardship program, gives high school students an opportunity to work with mentors from the Partnership, including BLM, on managing all aspects of a restoration project at the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The students are exposed to careers in natural resources while working on leadership and technical skills, developing an understanding of environmental and public land laws and managing a small program budget. For example, high school students managed the development of a frog pond on the NCA from start to finish, including planning, working through NEPA and developing and implementing actions to sustain the dual frog/cattle ponds.
In addition, the Cienega Watershed Partnership partners with ranchers within the Cienega Watershed to achieve sustainable forage resource goals.
The Partnership has held “State of the Cienega Watershed” workshops to help address resource knowledge gaps, identify key stressors on ecosystems, develop strategies to ensure sustainable management, initiate planning efforts to address uncertainty from climate change, and identify key indicators for resource monitoring. Another project, The Watershed Restoration Program, has trained resource specialists and volunteers in erosion control and water harvesting techniques.
An annual “Science on the Sonoita Plain” symposium brings together stakeholders, agency resource specialists, and scientists to share the results of scientific investigations in the upper watersheds of Cienega Creek, Sonoita Creek, and Babocomari River.
As part of another project, workshops are held for entities involved in managing, preserving, and interpreting cultural resources.
The Oral History program has brought together several organizations and agencies with an interest in oral histories of the region. Through a series of workshops, participants were trained in techniques of collecting, recording, and transcribing oral histories. More than 240 audio tapes have been inventoried and digitized and 30 tapes are now transcribed. This collaboration resulted in virtual libraries of indexed oral histories that are available to a wide variety of agencies and organizations for use in their cultural resource programs.
Through its many varied projects, the Cienega Watershed Partnership enhances stewardship of a wide variety of significant natural and cultural resources, ensuring that the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area is preserved for the future enjoyment of all public lands users.
BLM-Arizona nominated this program for the Interior Secretary’s “Partners in Conservation” Awards. The Department will formally announce those selected to receive an award in January.