Trump’s Mexican Border Wall Would Be an Ecological Disaster

What we build on the border impacts more than just humans.

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday pushing ahead one of his signature campaign stumps—the construction of a massive $14-20 billion wall along the 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico, designed to deter illegal immigrants and drugs from entering the United States.

¡Ajos-Bavispe obtiene un ascenso!/Ajos-Bavispe gets a promotion!

English text below.

por Mirna Manteca

¡Estamos celebrando buenas noticias sobre uno de nuestros colaboradores más grandes en Sonora! La Reserva Forestal Nacional y Refugio de Fauna Silvestre Ajos-Bavispe ha sido oficialmente reclasificada como Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Bavispe. Gracias a Wildlands Network y una larga lista de individuos y organizaciones interesadas, esta área natural protegida contará con un nivel de protección más alto que brindará claridad sobre el desarrollo de actividades como minería, ganadería y construcción de caminos dentro de la ANP. La reclasificación también provee reglas claras sobre el uso de recursos y promueve el desarrollo de actividades sustentables.

Con más de 200,000 hectáreas de bosque de encino y de pino, Ajo-Bavispe ha sido un colaborador clave en nuestra iniciativa de Parques Hermanos, esperamos seguir contando con una fuerte relación. Las Islas Serranas de Bavispe también han sido el sitio de la reciente colección de datos de manantiales, al igual que expediciones pasadas con nuestro proyecto de Evaluaciones de Biodiversidad del Archipiélago Madrense (MABA). Esta actualización de categoría traerá consigo nuevos recursos y capacidad para la restauración ecológica y conservación de fauna a través de la CONANP.

Se presionó, se oyeron voces, y la receptividad de México para actualizar el estado de esta joya de las Islas Serranas Mexicanas nos da esperanza en una región que enfrenta la amenaza de la construcción propuesta de un muro impermeable a lo largo de la frontera México–Estados Unidos, donde jaguares, berrendo y osos negros deambulan.


Ajos-Bavispe gets a promotion!

by Mirna Manteca

We’re celebrating some great news for an important partner in Sonora, Mexico! Ajos-Bavispe National Forest Reserve and Wildlife Refuge has been officially reclassified as Bavispe Flora and Fauna Protection Area. Thanks to Wildlands Network and a long list of concerned partners, this Sonoran Sky Island park enjoys a higher level of protection that brings clarity regarding human development, mining, and roads within the protected area. The reclassification also provides clear rules about the use of resources and promotes sustainable development activities with local landowners.

Encompassing over 500,000 acres of oak and pine forest, Ajos-Bavispe has been a key partner in Sky Island Alliance’s Sister Parks initiative, and we look forward to maintaining a strong relationship with the new entity. The Sky Islands of Bavispe have also been the site of our recent springs data collection efforts in Sonora and past expeditions with our Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessments (MABA). This upgrade in status will bring greater resources and capacity for ecological restoration and wildlife conservation through increased funding from the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP), Mexico’s park agency.

Pressure was applied, voices were heard, and Mexico’s receptiveness to update the status of this Mexican Sky Island gem gives us hope in a region facing increased threat from proposed construction of more impermeable wall along the US–Mexico border, where jaguars, pronghorn, and black bears roam.

Why I Give

We launched our Pathways for Wildlife campaign to the public on Arizona Gives Day to resounding support from our community of donors, volunteers, and partners. To date, we have raised more than $18,000, with nearly half of that coming in during 24 hours on Arizona Gives Day, a statewide day of giving.

We asked folks why they gave to our campaign to secure the Path of the Jaguar, and here’s what some of them had to say!

I give to Sky Island Alliance because I support preserving, protecting, and restoring our unique ecosystem in Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora. I give to Sky Island Alliance because in a time when politicians insult and attack our neighbors, Sky Island Alliance is an organization that builds alliances and relationships with like-minded individuals and organizations in Mexico. I give to Sky Island Alliance because they give me the opportunity to contribute my sweat as well as my money. I give to Sky Island Alliance because they are providing me with a wonderful education about our environment.

Bill Bemis

I donated because Sky Island Alliance values the relationship between humans and all that live within our extremely unique desert home, teaching us to respect native plants, animals, and people within our Sonoran landscape. Perhaps this will help us learn to treat one and other with grace as well. I have always felt that Sky Island Alliance has a poetic way of bringing people, plants and animals together, out of an honoring for all.

Kate Hodges

We support Sky Island Alliance’s Path of the Jaguar campaign because we are passionately in love with nature. It is vital that all creatures are able to travel their ranges with the food, water and cover they require without fragmentation or destruction of that path. This is an extremely important local program that really makes a difference!

Kent & Jessie Loganbill

Why I give to Sky Island Alliance is because they work to protect the land, water and diverse creatures that traverse one of the most unique, beautiful landscapes in this or any other region. My hope is, that it will always be preserved for future generations of people and animals that call the Sonoran Desert home. ♥

Sherry Lowenthal

I give to the Sky Island Alliance because I believe in the effort to keep the Sky Island chain intact. While I am a supporter of international conservation efforts, I also believe in caring for the environment on my home turf. Jaguars are the flagship species of the Sky Islands, but there are so many other components of this fragile ecosystem that are protected by the preservation of this habitat!

Nancy Bent

As jaguars move through deserts and mountains we’re reminded that we humans have always been a migratory species, and one so dependent on adapting to and being shaped by our connection to climate and place. I’m inspired to support the work of Sky Island Alliance because these mountains and deserts are our home, and we need to keep our home healthy, for jaguars and ourselves.

Ron Steffens

Many things, social and environmental, are bigger than profits or politics. My support for Sky Island Alliance projects – jaguar mobility included – is to provide a known “hands-on, get it done” non-governmental provider with resources to act on those bigger issues. That in turn helps me to still believe that we can as a people still do many good things, if we just step up individually and as groups to meet today’s special challenges.

Bill McGuire

Since moving to Southern Arizona 3+ years ago, I have come to love the desert southwest. I have always been an advocate for conservation/nature organizations and like to support them financially when I am able to do so. Groups like yours do wonderful work to help preserve wildlife & the environment.

Don Scarlett

The Sky Island Region is one of my favorite places on our planet. From my now-home on the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, I still dream of Arizona sycamore in craggy canyons, alligator juniper and madrones reaching up to the deepest blue of skies, and the expansive views over the grassland seas. Even though I now rarely get the chance to visit the Sky Islands, it makes me happy to support Sky Island Alliance’s hard work to restore and protect this special place for the diversity of life that calls the region home. Thank you for all you do.

Stephanie Weinstein

We live in an area of Vail that looks out over the Rincon Mountains and Saguaro National Park (East). The peace, beauty and environmental awe that we feel is only broken by visits from our wonderful desert wildlife.  We have been honored to be “the home” to four years (generations) of bob cats in our backyard with one special maternity ward spot that has been used each year right outside one of our windows. I have documented our “kids” and love to see them return time and time again.

We have seen the photos of El Jefe and have wanted to do whatever we could to make for a safe passage for him (her?) and his fellow jaguars. We have sponsored cameras for Saguaro National Park in the hope that one of these beauties will be spotted there. We hope our contribution to Arizona Gives Day to you and your organization will help to provide safe passage for many many more.

Marsha & Peter Badanes

In light of our new presidential orders for a border wall, it’s imperative now more than ever that we need funding and social support to keep these lands open to our special wildlife. The more organizations with money at stake to lose because of this wall will hopefully garner support for a movement against this atrocity to human and animal kind.

Adam Leitman

The glass is beautiful, but not as beautiful as the gracious cat that the proposed border wall threatens.

Thomas Meixner

The case for protecting our public lands

Across the United States, public lands provide clean water and open space and support healthy human communities. In the Sky Islands, public lands encompass most of our mountains, providing a haven for a diversity of plants and animals, enjoyment for all of us, and essential services like clean air and flowing creeks that support our quality of life and millions of jobs. Arizona and the Sky Islands are no exception. But our public lands now face an unprecedented threat.

The Executive Order issued by President Trump on April 26th calling for “review” of 27 National Monuments is a direct attack on our public lands, National Parks, and oceans. No president in history has ever overturned the designation of a National Monument by his predecessor, and we must not allow this Administration to start.

Nearly every President since Teddy Roosevelt has used the Antiquities Act to provide protections to our outstanding public lands, and the National Monument designations being called into question were enacted after extensive review involving high levels of stakeholder engagement.

More than 11 million acres of public lands of unique natural beauty, historical significance, or cultural and spiritual value are at stake. Two of the monuments are in Southern Arizona—Ironwood Forest and Sonoran Desert National Monuments. Over more than two decades of work to protect and restore the Sky Islands, you have joined us in being strong advocates for protecting our public lands and the special oases they harbor, for us and for wildlife. We hope you will continue to join us in taking a stand for the public good, and all the special places that are the pride of our nation.

The public has shown resounding opposition to this regressive plan. Environmentalists, recreational land users, and lawmakers have all spoken out in support of our National Monuments. We urge you to add your voice in support of our public lands.

The Department of the Interior is accepting public comments until July 10, 2017!

We’ve made it easy. Just use the form below to submit comments, and we will send them to the Department of the Interior. We’ve provided a short message to get you started, but it is important that comments be in your own words for the Department of Interior to count them individually. Share your personal story of why these National Monuments—and public lands in general—are important to you.

This petition is now closed. If you are seeing this message before midnight on July 10, 2017, please visit to submit your comments directly.

Take Action! Protect public lands in the West!

This petition is now closed.

End date: Jul 10, 2017

Signatures collected: 80

80 signatures

Defending science and taking action on climate change

The proposed federal budget released in March brings into sharp focus the impacts of the Trump administration’s unwillingness to accept the settled science on climate change, or any science really. There is a particular disregard for the science responding to climate change. Science is core to Sky Island Alliance’s mission, and we’ve long invested in helping wildlife and ecosystems of the Sky Islands respond to our rapidly changing climate. This important work depends on non-partisan science that is made publicly available.

We are committed to standing as a strong partner with federal and state agencies and the many scientists who have developed science and methods essential to our conservation and restoration work. They’ve produced essential information we use to support our Sky Island wildlife and ecosystems to thrive in an uncertain future.

Climate change is the new reality, and the Sky Islands are in one of the fastest warming areas of the nation. Those of you living here in Tucson probably noticed that March felt hot. It was incredibly hot—the hottest March on record, in fact. It also boasted a bona fide heat wave with 13 consecutive days with highs temperatures of 15 degrees or more above normal.

Climate change is causing shifts in temperature and precipitation that are altering our beloved landscapes and stressing many species in the region. It’s more critical now than ever that we focus our work in the right places in order to help wildlife persist and adapt. To know where our work is most need, we need science. With science and a spirited work ethic, we can curb some of the worst impacts of climate change and help ecosystems and species transition and adapt. Ultimately, healthy human communities and our quality of life in the Sky Islands depend on healthy, thriving natural areas.

For 25 years, Sky Island Alliance has been a strong force for local conservation based on solid science. We’ve engaged thousands of citizen scientists to collect information essential for mapping and protecting pathways for wildlife, bringing riparian and spring ecosystems back to flowing health and protecting the most sensitive and special places in the Sky Islands from development impacts. But climate change marches on…

In the coming months, it will be up to Congress to respond to this disastrous budget proposal and make decisions on the nation’s priorities and future. The time is now to stand strong for science and to advocate for funding and action to respond to climate change.

We hope you will stand with us and make a statement in support of science and climate action. Please join us at the upcoming Rally for Science this Saturday (4/22) in Tucson, and at the Tucson People’s Climate March next Saturday (4/29)!

If you can’t make it, we hope you will join us at an upcoming citizen scientist outing in the field. We’re on the ground lending a helping hand to our Sky Island springs, canyons, and other wet spots to keep water flowing and diverse native species thriving throughout the year!  Find an upcoming volunteer work event that suits your interests and schedule on our events calendar.

Sky Island Alliance volunteers are turning heads in Sonora!

Our Alianza Mariposa Monarca volunteers are working hard to raise awareness of monarch and pollinator conservation in the Sky Island communities of Sonora, Mexico.

Alianza Mariposa Monarca is a group of over 20 student volunteers from Universidad de Sonora who are helping us fill a vital information gap regarding the status of monarch butterflies in Sonora. Their hard work and commitment since 2015 has opened the door for them to be a part of the statewide web of environmental educators, called Red de Educadores Ambientales de Sonora. This network gives them access to a broader audience in the region.

In spring 2017, Alianza volunteers are working to clean up a vast area and create a native plant pollinator garden in Sonora’s Centro Ecológico in Hermosillo with help from ACTUES, a group of ecology students from Universidad Estatal de Sonora. These young volunteers have been dedicating their weekends to removing invasive buffelgrass and building small greenhouses with recycled materials for their newly germinated native milkweeds. They are topping off their long, hot days with monitoring a light trap to record nocturnal insect observations.

When we engage youth in conservation amazing things happen. The Alianza is not only leading monarch and pollinator conservation in Sonora, but building leadership in Northern Mexico’s youth.

¡Los voluntarios de Sky Island Alliance están volteando cabezas en Sonora!

Nuestros voluntarios de Alianza Mariposa Monarca están trabajando arduamente para crear conciencia sobre la conservación de mariposa monarca y polinizadores en las comunidades de la Islas Serranas de Sonora, México.

Alianza Mariposa Monarca es un grupo de más de 20 estudiantes voluntarios de la Universidad de Sonora que han asumido la tarea de abordar la brecha de información sobre el estatus de las mariposa monarca en Sonora. Su trabajo y compromiso les ha abierto la puerta para que formen parte de la Red de Educadores Ambientales de Sonora, la cual les da acceso a un público más amplio en la región.

Esta primavera de 2017, los voluntarios de la Alianza están trabajando en limpiar un área en el Centro Ecológico de Sonora en Hermosillo para crear un jardín de polinizadores de plantas nativas con la ayuda de ACTUES, un grupo de estudiantes de ecología de la Universidad Estatal de Sonora. Estos jóvenes voluntarios han estado dedicando sus fines de semana a la eliminación de zacate buffel y la construcción de pequeños invernaderos con materiales reciclados para proteger las plántulas que han germinado. Estos jóvenes rematan sus días largos y calientes con una trampa de luz para registrar observaciones de insectos nocturnos.

Cuando involucramos a los jóvenes en la conservación, suceden cosas asombrosas. La Alianza no sólo es líder en la conservación de monarcas y polinizadores en Sonora, sino también en la construcción de liderazgo en la juventud del noroeste de México.

What makes good pathways for wildlife? Abundant clean water!

Pathways for wildlife aren’t literal roads or trails. On their journey north to stake out new territory, jaguars need regular access to clean water and food, and they need safe and secluded passage through wild areas free from development and disturbance. With your help Sky Island Alliance will protect and restore these vital resources.

Jaguars, and all our beloved Sky Island wildlife, rely on access to clean water

When I envision El Jefe’s journey to the Santa Rita Mountains, I imagine him pausing for a drink or a mid-day respite from the heat at one of the many springs we monitor. These same springs support a diversity of Sky Island species like the pipevine swallowtail butterfly and Chiricahua leopard frog.

This Arizona Gives Day, your gift to Sky Island Alliance will support pathways for wildlife that include abundant flowing water at the springs and streams we all—human and wildlife alike—love to visit.

Make your Arizona Gives Day gift today.

Sky Island Alliance works with citizen scientists like Sherry Mann and Mike Garcia, who visit Alamo Spring 5 times a year, in rainy seasons and in drought. These skilled volunteers collect much-needed information on the health of a vital water source just a short walk from where El Jefe was spotted at the heart of a Sky Island pathway for wildlife.

What better way to show your love for the Sky Islands than making a donation to protect these beautiful and precious water sources where a jaguar might pause for drink or a nap. Schedule your Arizona Gives Day gift to Sky Island Alliance today.

For our Sky Island waters!

Louise Misztal
Executive Director

Sky Island conservation is powered by YOU!

Louise and the rest of the volunteer crew in Las Cienegas, 2004

I first met Sky Island Alliance nearly 13 years ago as one of the hundreds of volunteers who power our conservation work each year. It was a joy to spend two days in beautiful, rolling grasslands, digging in the dirt. That trip opened my eyes to the spirit of people-powered conservation and drew me into a Sky Island community that’s been working for decades to heal the land and protect the pathways where bobcats, bears, and jaguars are moving.

In the years since that first trip, I’ve seen Sky Island Alliance become an essential catalyst to connect people like you with the beauty and wildness of our mountains and grasslands.

This Arizona Gives Day you can power conservation in your Sky Islands. On Arizona Gives Day last year, people like you donated nearly $3 million in just 24 hours, empowering nonprofits across the state to build healthier communities and protect our natural heritage. We invite you to join in this 1-day campaign of giving.

Make your Arizona Gives Day gift today.

We’re a small organization working to protect some very big places. But last year, over 600 people volunteered more than 12,000 hours, increasing our capacity and helping our work ripple out into new communities. People-powered conservation is more important now than ever. You play a key role in building resilient communities to protect vibrant open spaces and pathways for wildlife–connecting vital water sources and crossing boundaries.

Shannon Sassone, a documentary filmmaker and one of our volunteers, beautifully captured this spirit of community and people power at our workshop at Rancho el Carricito in Bacoachi, Sonora, Mexico. Check it out below, soak up the excitement and passion, and then please join me in making an investment in your Sky Islands with your Arizona Gives Day gift to Sky Island Alliance today.

Caring for the land benefits water, wildlife, and the health of our human communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, and we can’t do it without you.

For our Sky Islands!

Louise Misztal
Executive Director

Embattled Borderlands: A Virtual Visit to the U.S.-Mexico Border

Tour the stunning natural and cultural richness of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands in this story map created by award winning photographer and writer Krista Schlyer. Krista collaborated with researchers, filmmakers, photographers and conservation organizations, including Sky Island Alliance, to paint a vivid portrait of the borderlands region and the threats posed by the proposed border wall expansion.

Sky Island Alliance opposes further construction of a wall that will damage and divide human and natural communities and halt the movement of wildlife and water. We are committed to working with neighbors and partners in Mexico to keep the Sky Island Region whole and functioning.

Embattled Borderlands, authored by Krista Schlyer, story map platform by ESRI (3/13/2017).
View in Full Screen

Sky Island jaguars need you to speak up!

updated 3/6/2017 – additions are in bold italics

Please ask the USFWS to protect the habitat and pathways that jaguars need to recover in the United States by submitting comments on their recently released Jaguar Draft Recovery Plan. The plan could be improved in a number of areas, and your voice can amplify the need to address these key issues.

The recent sighting of a jaguar in the Huachuca Mountains and the even more recent news of a jaguar in the Dos Cabezas range show that if we protect intact habitat and open pathways for jaguars, they will continue to repopulate the Sky Islands on the U.S. side of the border!

In your comments, be sure to tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Populations of breeding jaguars belong in the U.S., and I want them to fully recover here in southern Arizona.

Recovery of the species to their former range requires you to protect and restore movement pathways that span the U.S.–Mexico border and connect population strongholds in Sonora to suitable habitat in the U.S.

Long-term recovery of the jaguar requires adequate consideration of climate change. USFWS must assess and consider the likely effects of climate change on the northern range of the jaguar, including potential projected range shifts of current populations in Sonora to habitat further north in the U.S.

Proposed border walls and other infrastructure along the U.S.–Mexico border will damage suitable habitat and hinder recovery of the jaguar in the U.S. The plan must maintain the permeability of crossborder corridors to support jaguar movement.

Full inclusion of these priority trans-boundary corridors is vital to the jaguar: the Sierra San Luis linkage to Animas & Peloncillo, the entire San Pedro River riparian corridor, Sierra Chivato linkage to Huachucas, San Antonio linkage to Patagonia, Sierra Cibuta linkage to Pajarito & Atascosa, and Sierra Pozo Verde linkage to Baboquivari.

Protect habitat and linkages that will support breeding populations of jaguars in the U.S. and Mexico through 2066.

Improve wildlife linkages across barriers such as Highway 2 and 15 in Mexico and I-10 in the United States.

You can submit your comments on the plan through March 20, 2017. Submit comments by email to or mail them to this address: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Office, 9828 North 31st Avenue, #C3, Phoenix, AZ 85051–2517.

You can download the full Jaguar Draft Recovery Plan is available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website (PDF).

Thank you for taking action and making your voice heard on this important plan!

Jaguar (c) Sky Island Alliance/El Aribabi

Jaguar (c) Sky Island Alliance/El Aribabi