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Malpai Borderlands New Mexico and Arizona



Gila Monster and Chiricahua Leopard Frog

"The Malpai Borderlands Group is proud of what our collaborative efforts with the Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Bureau of Land Management have achieved. We have successfully completed projects involving prescribed fire, endangered species, and watershed protection. These accomplishments would have been considered almost impossible just a few years ago. Now both the agencies and the Malpai Group have come to expect these kinds of results from working together." - Bill McDonald, Malpai Borderlands Group 

Along the southwest boot heel of New Mexico and the southeast corner of Arizona, ranches have been held in the same family for four or five generations. It's a land that experiences only a few inches of rainfall a year and is home to a number of threatened species - the Chiricahua leopard frog, ridge-nosed rattlesnake, and others.

Ranchers in the Borderlands have something of a hardscrabble life; they face water challenges, erosion, and, increasingly, threats from development. Subdivisions are beginning to move out from some of the border towns. Ranches need wide open spaces.

As a result of all these issues, ranchers in the Malpai region partnered with The Nature Conservancy, an environmental group that owns and manages many environmentally sensitive lands throughout the United States. They also worked with Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management and others as they created the Malpai Borderlands Group. So far, the Group has developed a joint fire management plan to use controlled burns to reestablish herbaceous plant cover to improve wildlife habitat; re-seeding and best management practices programs; and cooperative relationships with research and management organizations, including university, State, and Federal government entities - all intended to benefit the watershed.

One of the most interesting accomplishments of the Malpai Group is the creation of a 300,000-acre "grass bank", a conservation easement set aside in perpetuity for grass and prairie conservation. This area also serves as an insurance policy for ranchers in periods of drought. The provisions of the easement allow the ranchers to move their cattle onto the grass bank when forage on their own lands becomes sparse. Again, a cooperative approach is producing healthy lands, thriving communities, and a stronger economy.

- June 2004