Sky Islands - Chiricahua, © Roxie Crouch
© Roxie Crouch

Sky Islands

What We’re Doing to Help

Keeping Wildlife on Public Lands 

Our Southwest forests, which continue into Mexico, are threatened by climate change, drought, overgrazing, lack of natural fire, mining and development, and invasive species.  If apex predators,  nature’s wildlife managers, can be returned to the landscape, it will increase the health of the ecosystem. Yet decades after being wiped out by humans, apex predators like Mexican gray wolves and jaguars are still struggling to reestablish themselves in these stressed forests.

Defenders is constantly working to improve the ecological integrity of federal and tribal lands, including the Apache-Sitgreaves, Gila and Coronado National Forests, within the Sky Islands region to boost populations of important wildlife species. In turn, these species, particularly predators, can help improve the health of the ecosystem.

Within the Coronado National Forest, we are concentrating our efforts on forest planning and on putting a stop to destructive new mining operations. These mines directly impact jaguars and ocelots in the area, and the cumulative effects of exploratory drilling and mining can stop recovery in its tracks. Defenders worked to curtail mining in the Santa Rita and Patagonia ranges, and we have held special events highlighting the importance of wildlife corridors in Naco, Sonora, Tucson, the White Mountains and the Patagonias. 

Living With Southwest Wildlife 

Although wolves kill very few livestock (less than 1 percent of livestock losses in Arizona and even fewer in New Mexico, as reported by ranchers), these losses can be a significant hardship to individual ranchers. Such losses lower tolerance for wolves and can lead to illegal killing, renewed calls for agencies to remove wolves and vocal anti-wolf politicking, which in turn slows down agency actions in support of recovery.

Defenders’ staff works directly with ranchers and tribal members to implement proven techniques to keep wolves and livestock safe. These include using range riders and guard dogs to watch over livestock, moving livestock away from wolf dens, erecting special fencing and more. 

For more details on these conflict-avoidance tools and techniques, see Livestock and Wolves — A Guide to Nonlethal Methods for Reducing Conflicts. While no single approach to reducing conflicts is effective in every situation, by working together with affected livestock producers and wildlife managers to troubleshoot problem scenarios, we’ve made improvements on the ground for wolves and humans.