It is one of the most ecologically rich places on Earth. It harbors the highest diversity of mammals in the United States and the second highest in the world. In southern Arizona, the San Pedro River flows north from Mexico across the U.S. border. And with it flows a stunning variety of life. “The San Pedro riparian corridor is such a huge influence on migratory patterns for all kinds of animals but especially birds,” said Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity. “For the entire continental United States it’s a very precious place.” But like many desert rivers the San Pedro has lost a good deal of its flow because the ground water pumping in the area has drawn down the water table. Expanding industry and development in nearby Sierra Vista and the Fort Huachuca army installation are the biggest users of water in the region. As more water is pumped from underground, less water makes it to the river itself. As a result the river is shrinking. Along with a diminishing water supply laws designed to protect the river’s many threatened and endangered species, and by extension the San Pedro itself were recently relaxed for the sake of local industry. The Renzi Rider as the legislation was called exempts Fort Huachuca and the surrounding community of Sierra Vista from the requirements of the endangered species act. Activist hope to reverse the exemption but for now, without laws that would ensure adequate water flow, community members are doing what they can to preserve this disappearing natural resource.
For the past 30 years concerned citizens and lawmakers have been working to create the Rio Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area along New Mexico’s northern boarder. The proposed NCA consists of 235,000 acres of rolling sagebrush hills and 70 miles of the Rio Grande, the first section of wild and scenic river established in the United States. The goal is not only to preserve this rare and wild landscape, but also a way of life that dates back hundreds of years.
A love of backcountry skiing explains David Gonzales’ obsession with white bark pines. A writer and photographer, he spends a lot of time beneath these ancient trees. But the white barks are under attack. And that has this skier marshaling forces to fight back. Once the snow melts, he leads volunteers called Tree Fighters into the forest surrounding Yellowstone National Park. Tree Fight is an organization that is working to curb the loss of white bark pines due to the escalating impact of climate change. Scientists say rising temperatures have opened the door to a mountain pine beetle invasion. White barks live at the highest, harshest elevations in the northwestern United States and Southwestern Canada. Extremely cold temperatures used to keep this native pest at lower elevations. Now these beetles are capitalizing on warmer temperatures, killing white barks at a staggering rate. Tree Fight aims to stop them.