grazing

Rosemont’s Conservation Lands Program

In addition to mine development, Rosemont Copper has a land conservation program which currently includes five sites in southern Arizona, see map below. Rosemont says the program will “permanently conserve 4,500 acres of open space, and allocate more than 550 million gallons per year of private surface water rights to the public.”

Rosemont-conservation-lands

The following short descriptions are taken from Rosemont’s brochure on the program.  For that brochure and more details on each  property go to: http://rosemontcopper.com/conservation.html .

1. Fullerton Ranch:

Adjacent to existing county conservation land, acquisition of this property maintains open land for hiking, bird watching, hunting, camping, mountain biking and off-roading. While over-grazed today, sustainable grazing to support local ranching can be supported on the property. The property provides a valuable habitat for the Desert Box Tortoise and other species. Without conservation, the property would be subject to fragmentation and development.

2. Helvetia Ranch North:

The Helvetia Ranch North property connects BLM Santa Rita Experimental Range land to the Coronado National Forest. Its conservation ensures an intact cultural and natural landscape, completes wildlife corridor connections, and maintains public access to the Santa Rita Mountains. The Ranch also provides habitat for vulnerable and endangered species like the Pima Pineapple Cactus, the Mexican Long-Tongued Bat, and the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat.

3. Sonoita Creek Ranch:

Located at the headwaters of the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, the Sonoita Creek Ranch property plays an essential role in the recharging of the Town of Patagonia’s aquifer. Prior to its purchase by Rosemont, Sonoita Creek was poised for residential development. Now Sonoita Creek Ranch and its 588 acre-feet per year surface water right, fed by a perennial spring, will be conserved.

4. Pantano Dam:

Rosemont, working with the state and local agencies, hopes to be successful negotiating projects that will use existing private water rights for the enhancement of an important stream habitat in the Pantano Wash, Davidson Canyon, Lower and Upper Cienega Creek and Empire Gulch. These enhancement projects, both downstream and upstream, would create a habitat for endangered species with a priority water right that Rosemont has secured.

5. Davidson Canyon Ranches:

Each of these is a historic homestead, chosen by the homesteader because of a flowing spring. Conservation of these sites ensures the lands will be kept open rather than developed, preserving public views, numerous archeological sites, and the reach of the seasonal Davidson Canyon Wash that a downstream of which has been designated as an Outstanding Arizona Water.

See also:

The value of mining in Arizona

Distinguishing Fact from Fiction about Rosemont

Future of Rosemont Mine Very Certain

Rosemont answers Cyanide Beach

Pima County versus Rosemont

Rosemont’s dry-stacked tailings will be greener than those near Green Valley

Jaguars versus the Rosemont mine

Cattle grazing may restore grasslands and reverse desertification

In a series of lectures, Dr. Allan Savory, a biologist and former Zimbabwean farmer claims that mis-managed cattle grazing, such as has occurred in Africa, has turned grassland into desert, but properly managed cattle grazing can reverse the process, reclaim the desert, and turn it once again into productive grassland.

Savory was a member of the Rhodesian Parliament and had to go into exile after opposing the policies of Ian Smith. In 1992, Savory founded the Savory Institute in Boulder, CO, and the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. You can watch videos of his 2009 lectures here and a February, 2013, lecture here (22 minutes).

Savory’s basic thesis on grazing is this:

“In the past, large wild herds of herbivores such as caribou and buffalo migrated over the land to find food and avoid predators. These herds grazed, defecated, stomped and salivated as they moved across the grasslands, building soil and deepening plant roots. Once these herds had migrated onward they would not return to an area until it had recovered.”

“Unfortunately, over time, the wild herds disappeared and were replaced by small numbers of domestic, sedentary livestock. Without the timely stomping and excrement of large numbers of animals, the cycle of biological decay in these grasslands was interrupted and the once-rich soils turned into dry, exposed desert land.”

Savory’s solution is to concentrate grazing in small areas and move the cattle frequently. I have seen this method practiced in the Cape Province of South Africa when I was doing geologic exploration there many years ago. There, the land is very flat as shown in my photo. There are miles and miles of miles, as one South African colleague put it.

The Savory setup is to establish a central water source, then encircle it with six to eight, relatively small, wedge-shaped pastures enclosed with barbed wire. Cattle are grazed in one or two of the wedges and moved frequently. This short-term, intense grazing does help restore the grasslands in this area.

Would this method be beneficially applicable to cattle grazing in Arizona? To find out, I consulted a friend who is a cattle rancher in Southern Arizona, an expert on desert grasses, and familiar with the Savory system. The answer is “no” at least in Southern Arizona, because:

The Savory Method is highly intensive, requires enormous expense in mini-pasture fencing and constant moving of livestock. Desertification is certainly a concern in Africa. But here it is of less concern because of our intensively monitored and managed systems (developed largely on the Santa Rita Research Ranch in the Green Valley area by U of A agricultural experts). We manage according to agreement with the Forest Service and State Land Department based on this locally-derived science. Desertification is simply not happening in this area.

The pattern here is larger pastures with rest-rotation systems geared to our bimodal rainfall regime with the primary growth in the summer. Entire summer rest is provided (in fact, about 20 months) every other year on most of our summer pastures. Our herds are generally in one large pasture for a season and then are moved to pastures with forage that has had a significant regrowth period. This process seems to produce the best plant community including wildlife habitat and promotes sustainable or steadily above-sustainable production of herbage with the widest variety.

Our rugged, distant, forest pastures don’t lend themselves to mini-pastures: we’d have to drill many more wells or put in more miles of expensive pipelines. We would also have the problem of maintaining many fences cut by folks moving illegally north. The Savory system may well get good results in flatter, privately owned, access-controlled land, but that is quite different from Southern Arizona ranchland.

We see, therefore, that there is not a universal solution, but great benefit when methods of better practice are designed for local conditions. And in each case examined here, cattle grazing can benefit the environment.

While this result may be surprising to some and contrary to the precepts of radical environmental groups, it is just common sense that cattle growers have an economic interest in keeping the range healthy and productive.

See also:

Buenos Aires National Game Refuge This post gives a history of ranching in the Altar Valley.

Ranching and agriculture in Arizona, The Arizona Experience