A group dedicated to tearing down old cattle fences to clear the way for wildlife is now targeting abandoned barbed wire in the Oro Valley.
After years of working mostly in the Avra Valley, self-described desert fence violators will stage their first – and possibly last – fence removal project along the Big Wash in the Oro Valley on Saturday.
Carolyn Campbell of the nonprofit Sonoran Desert Conservation Alliance said the half-day event will target the only known patches of ancient fencing in the area — about three miles in value that represent a barrier and potential danger to animals using a wildlife bridge and underpass to the north. Oracle Road.
“Some of these ramparts have been around for a hundred years and have no current purpose,” Campbell said. “But what they do is prevent the movement of wildlife between the Catalina and Tortoletta mountain ranges.”
People also read…
Cattle fences can transform or even erect deer, bighorn sheep, javelina, and other large animals, further fragmenting a desert landscape that has already been divided by roads, utility corridors, and residential developments.
It was a team of government agencies and conservation groups They are working hard to solve the problem in Wadi Avra Over the past several years, it has been partially inspired by a pair of bighorns that crossed the Central Arizona Project Canal and made their way to the western side of Saguaro National Park in 2016.
In addition to removing fences that are no longer in use, participating agencies are working to modify still functioning barriers where possible to make them more suitable for wildlife.
Partners in this effort include the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Department of Game and Fish, Sonoran Desert Conservation Coalition, Friends of Ironwood Forest, Friends of Saguaro National Park, Friends of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Tucson Audubon Society, Federation of Arizona wildlife and more.
The group, now called the Desert Fence Busters, has already removed and pulled tons of wire and poles, opening up miles of new travel corridors for the animals. No one knows how much of the fence is left, but the problem is believed to be pervasive.
“These old fences, everybody got it,” Campbell said. “It’s really a huge problem for the wildlife movement there.”
During the group’s last event on October 15, a crew of 21 demolished two miles of the old fence and moved nearly 4,000 pounds of material from the Avra Valley.
Saturday’s volunteer event focuses on land in and around the Big Wash operated by the Pima County Flood Control Regional District.
“Barbed fences can stop large animals, alter their movement patterns, and keep them away from sources of water and food that they need to survive,” said Marisa Rice, open land manager for the flood zone. “We are pleased to work with a diverse mix of local public and private groups and volunteers to join together on a cause for common ground.”
Campbell said they already have all the volunteers they need for Saturday, but the Desert Wall Busters would welcome some help with future projects, including the next one scheduled for December 9-11 in the Avra Valley.
More information and an online registration form is available on the Alliance website: www.sonorandesert.org/learning-more/wildlife-linkages-2/desertfencebusters/.
Campbell has so far been pleasantly surprised by the number of volunteers willing to join the cause. “It’s hard work,” she said, “but people seem to love it.”
Videos: Capturing the Wildlife of Southern Arizona