ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona ranches, ghost town find new life as conservation areas

Nov 29, 2021, 1:00 PM
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (Bureau of Land Management Photo/Bob Wick)...
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (Bureau of Land Management Photo/Bob Wick)
(Bureau of Land Management Photo/Bob Wick)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A pair of ranches and a ghost town in southern Arizona will be conserved for wildlife and recreation under separate deals brokered recently by nonprofit land trusts.

Just over 7.8 square miles of once-private land were purchased in Cochise and Graham counties to protect open spaces from development and improve public access to remote wildlands, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

Under the largest of the two acquisitions, The Trust for Public Land acquired the Cross F Ranch in Graham County and turned it over to the federal agencies that manage the adjacent Aravaipa Canyon and Santa Teresa Mountains wilderness areas.

The deal, announced Nov. 1, includes about 4.8 square miles of private land, 29.7 square miles of federal grazing allotments and what’s left of the early 20th-century mining town of Aravaipa.

In 2015, Scottsdale-based Force Options 360 Tactical Training LLC announced plans to build a gun range and tactical training facility on the isolated property, but the proposal was scrapped amid fierce opposition from residents in the tiny, nearby community of Klondyke.

The Trust for Public Land paid $2.69 million for the ranch, then conveyed it to the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service as a public access point for another 62.5 square miles of public land previously cut off from use by hikers, hunters and horseback riders.

“We’re all about conserving land for people,” said Michael Patrick, senior project manager for the San Francisco-based trust. “This project will protect an important landscape and provide thousands of acres of public access to these beautiful wild lands.”

Securing the ranch will also help preserve a network of natural springs that feeds into Aravaipa Creek and an important wildlife corridor used by desert bighorn sheep and other animals, Patrick said.

Cross F Ranch borders both the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation and The Nature Conservancy’s Aravaipa Canyon Preserve. As the crow flies, the area is only about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, but there is no direct way to get there. The shortest route covers more than 150 miles and involves driving to Willcox and heading northwest from there.

The trust partnered with the BLM, the Forest Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department to acquire the property for an undisclosed amount. Most of the money came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a 55-year-old program that uses federal royalties from offshore oil and natural-gas production to pay for recreation and preservation projects.

Buying the ranch was the BLM’s top priority nationwide for Land and Water Conservation Fund projects during the 2020 federal fiscal year, Patrick said. “This has been a couple years in the works.”

He said the BLM is now in talks with the Graham County Historical Society to install interpretive signs at the Aravaipa townsite, where a few old buildings and headframes are all that remain of an early 1900s camp for roughly 100 silver, lead and copper miners.

Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than 4,687 square miles (12,140 square kilometers) across the United States, including more than 60 projects and about 437.5 square miles in Arizona.

The second recent land acquisition in southern Arizona involves 2.9 square miles of Cochise County grassland along State Highway 82 east of Sonoita.

The Arizona Land and Water Trust announced its purchase there on Nov. 9.

The Tucson-based trust now owns 5.9 square miles of the historic Rain Valley Ranch, which provides habitat for endangered species and a wildlife corridor that links the Huachuca, Mustang and Whetstone mountains.

The property about 60 miles southeast of Tucson will still be used for livestock grazing, but a conservation easement will prevent it from being broken up and developed into ranchettes or large-lot, single-family homes.

According to the trust, preserving the Rain Valley Ranch will also help the U.S. Army’s training mission at nearby Fort Huachuca by ensuring low levels of electromagnetic interference from the ground beneath its restricted airspace.

Since 1978, the Arizona Land and Water Trust has protected more than 97 square miles throughout southern Arizona. The trust now holds more than 37 square miles in conservation easements.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) walks to her office in the basement of the ...
KTAR.com

Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from Jan. 21-23

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema being censured by the state’s Democratic party is among the biggest Arizona stories of the weekend.
18 hours ago
Barry Markson (Twitter photo/BarryMarkson1)...
Mike O'Neil/The Think Tank

Think Tank talks with practicing attorney and KTAR host Barry Markson

Practicing attorney and sometimes KTAR News 92.3 FM host Barry Markson joins this week's Think Tank to discuss his take on Biden’s recent speech and other topics.
18 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Wills Rice

Storm brings rain, strong wind gusts to metro Phoenix Saturday night

A storm rolled through metro Phoenix Saturday night, bringing rain and wind across the Valley.
18 hours ago
A Valley Metro Rail train drives through downtown on March 26, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Despite fe...
KTAR.com

Phoenix receives $920K for 5-mile streetcar route development in Mesa

The city of Mesa on Friday received a $920,000 grant to manage the planning of a 5-mile streetcar route that would connect four activity centers within the municipality.
18 hours ago
(Phoenix Police Department Photo)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix police seek public’s help in identifying suspects who shot 2 teens in December

The Phoenix Police Department is seeking the public's assistance in identifying three suspects who shot two 15-year-old teens in December.
18 hours ago
(Grand Canyon Railway Photo)...
KTAR.com

Steam locomotives to pull Grand Canyon Railway trains 11 times this year

The Grand Canyon Railway announced 11 dates for 2022 when vintage steam locomotives will lead the way to and from Arizona's top tourist attraction.
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Arizona State University

This is the best year to get your MBA

Getting a master’s degree is a major commitment of time, energy, and money, so returning to school — even if you’re thinking about a part-time program that allows you to keep working — is one of the biggest decisions of your career.
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 27: Wide receivers John Brown #12 and Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona C...
Arizona Department of Gaming

The most memorable games in Arizona sports history every fan needs to know

Sports teams in Arizona have seen their fair share of instant classic games, but there's a few that every fan needs to know.
(Facebook Photo/NHTSA)...
Sweet James

Upcoming holiday season is peak time for DUI arrests

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most dangerous time of the year to be driving. That’s why it’s important to remember to call Sweet James Accident Attorneys if you’re injured or arrested because of a DUI accident.
Arizona ranches, ghost town find new life as conservation areas