We seek to permanently protect three separate areas managed by the Coronado National Forest in Cochise County, Arizona. Our efforts incorporate not only Wilderness, but a combination of different designations and protection tools designed to give best and lasting protection to the these lands. Effective conservation draws on many options that work to accommodate the needs of our diverse community.
The Land of Legends effort seeks to protect lands found within the Whetstone, Dragoon and Northern Chiricahua mountains of southeastern Arizona. These mountain ranges are known far and wide for their beauty and their ecological and historic values. It is here, in these select places that we can connect with nature and our own history – linking the land with people and building a lasting legacy for the future.
Learn more about this community effort, and sign the petition showing your support:
Land of Legends for our Future Official Website
The Name: The Whetstone Mountains are a small rugged range named after a mineral found there called novaculite, a hard, fine-grained rock used for making whetstones for sharpening blades.
Highest Peak: The highest summit is Apache Peak at 7,711 feet.
Habitat: The Whetstones contain a stunning mixture of plants and animals, with vegetation types ranging from semi desert grassland mixed scrub and Chihuahuan Desert scrub, to Madrean encinal, Madrean pine-oak woodland and ponderosa pine.
Fascinating Facts: This place is home to Kartchner Caverns State Park, an awe-inspiring living cave that is fed by water collected and filtered in the Whetstone Mountains, and is an important nursery roost for bats. The Whetstones provide excellent backcountry hunting, hiking, camping, backpacking, horseback riding and birding. French Joe Canyon alone supports more than 147 species of birds. Sky Island Alliance documented an ocelot in the Whetstones in 2009, and a local resident photographed a jaguar here in 2011. A fossil hunter discovered exposed dinosaur bones in the Whetstone foothills in 1994, and this discovery of Sonorasaurus thompsoni marked the first new dinosaur species found in southern Arizona for many years. According to Arizona lore, Wyatt Earp shot and killed “Curly Bill” Brocius in a shootout at what is now Mescal Springs.
The Name: Once known as Sierra de la Peñascosa (Spanish for “a very rugged, rocky range”) the Dragoons are named for the US Army’s Dragoon regiment of the late 1850s.
Highest Peak: The highest summit is at 7,519 feet on Mount Glenn.
Habitat: Vegetation ranges from desert scrub and semi desert grassland to encinal savanna, mixed pine-oak woodland and Arizona cypress riparian forests. These cypress stands, once common in the region, are now quite rare.
Fascinating Facts: Fifteen species listed as threatened, endangered or of special concern are found in the Dragoons, including the peregrine falcon and Chiricahua leopard frog. Historic records also document ocelots and jaguars. The Dragoons contain some of the most intact and species-rich grasslands in the Coronado National Forest. Elsewhere in southern Arizona, grassland habitats are quickly vanishing. This area’s high productivity provides year-round hunting and gathering, which enabled the Chiricahua Apaches to remain the only nonagricultural culture in the American Southwest. This mountain range is part of the homeland of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. The tribe once sought refuge from the U. S. Cavalry in the core of the Dragoons in an area we now know as Cochise Stronghold. On Oct. 12, 1872, the U.S. government signed a treaty with Cochise, chief of the Chiricahua Apaches, after several meetings near Stronghold Canyon at a site later named Council Rocks. The Dragoon’s iconic rocky boulders and cliff sides have made this place a popular rock-climbing and bouldering destination.
The Name: The word “Chiricahua” may have come from the Opata Indian word chiguicagui, meaning “mountains of the wild turkeys.”
Highest Peak: The highest summit is at 9,759 feet at Chiricahua Peak.
Habitat: Vegetation ranges from semi desert grasslands and Chihuahuan Desert scrub to montane mixed-conifer forest.
Fascinating Facts: The Chiricahuas are one of the largest Sky Islands in the United States. A world-renowned birding destination, the range is home to the subtropical elegant trogon and, until they were extirpated (wiped-out), thick-billed parrots. The only recorded short-tailed hawk nesting in the United States outside Florida was documented here. In 9,000 B.C., this mountain range was home to Clovis hunters, whose spear points have been found in the fossilized remains of mammoths in the region. The Chiricahua Mountains provide excellent opportunities for tracking wild game, horseback riding or simply watching the changing patterns of light through the oak trees at Turkey Creek. The Apaches called these mountains “The Land of Standing-Up Rocks,” and the famous spires, columns, and balanced rocks are a favorite designation for people around the world.