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

See place-based wildfire analysis on our Story Map

Throughout 2015 and 2016, we monitored two locations in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona to document the effect that rock structures have on soil moisture and compare performance of the structures in one landscape that had suffered severe wildfire and one that had not yet burned.

Now you can dig into the full, interactive story of this work on our story map! Check out maps of the area, photos of the rock structures in Bar Boot and Tex Canyon, and videos of the results! We packed in so much good stuff, it takes a couple minutes to load fully—so please be patient.



Our pledge to you: Sky Island Alliance will stand strong for binational conservation

Over the past week we’ve been busy at Sky Island Alliance preparing to host a workshop in Sonora, Mexico where we will train a cohort of Mexican university students and agency personnel in springs ecosystem surveys. Despite their incredible importance to landowners and wildlife, the springs of Mexico’s Sky Islands are poorly mapped and understood, and the first step to helping them thrive is to learn where they are and how wet they are.


Our crossborder partnerships protect water, wildlife, and communities.

Water is essential to supporting the diversity of life in the deserts, grasslands, and mountains of the Sky Islands, be it wildlife, plants, or humans. Our Sky Island waters are gravely threatened by the warming climate—with 2016 wrapping up as the hottest year on record.

And now, our Sky Islands on both sides of the US–Mexico border face assault from a barrage of Executive Orders and appointees from the new Trump administration. These orders and appointees endanger the public lands, clean air, and clean water that support our way of life in the Sky Islands and threaten the very fabric of our binational conservation work.

For me the actions of the Administration reinforce the urgency of Sky Island Alliance’s work to advance conservation and tackle climate change at a local level with local communities, to stand strong for good science, and to be a diverse and inclusive workplace and Alliance.

In the coming weeks and months, Sky Island Alliance will defend these conservation and community principles, which have guided our work since the beginning:

Connectivity of natural and human communities across borders
Jaguar (c) Sky Island Alliance/El Aribabi

Jaguar (c) Sky Island Alliance/El Aribabi

For decades Sky Island Alliance has worked to reconnect wildlife and human communities across jurisdictional and international boundaries. The wildlife, waters, and ecosystems of the Sky Island Region know no political boundaries and our work is made possible and enriched by working with communities and residents in Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Chihuahua. This work remains paramount in light of the Trump administration’s January 25 Executive Order to move forward with further construction of a border wall in our borderlands. Further construction of a wall along our southern border will damage human and natural communities and halt the movement of wildlife and water, not to mention that walls have proven to be an expensive, ineffective approach to stop crossborder smuggling or deter undocumented immigrants along the border. We are committed to building connectivity for wildlife and working with our neighbors and partners in Mexico to keep the Sky Island Region whole and functioning.

Protecting the integrity and availability of science
Monitoring springs in Sonora.

Monitoring springs in Sonora.

Science is our bread and butter at Sky Island Alliance—it’s right there in our mission. The biologists, ecologists, and botanists on staff and among our volunteers develop new information to improve protections for unique wildlife and ecosystems and to protect pathways for them to move freely. We make science actionable, taking it to the ground in the form of new management approaches, new protections for unique waters and ecosystems and carefully placed ecosystem restoration projects. Actions taken by the Trump administration to prevent science and information developed by the EPA, and other important federal agencies, from reaching the public and decision makers is deplorable. We will continue to share science with our partners and the many land and resource managers working to ensure our Sky Islands are teeming with clean water and a diversity of life.

Responding to climate change

For those of us living in the low elevations of the Sky Islands, we’ve been feeling climate change all around us for years. Sky Island Alliance has been a local leader in protecting habitat and providing wildlife and ecosystems space and time to respond by expanding and adapting our restoration work and conducting essential science-based planning with land and resource managers. The Trump administration has made it clear their intent is to deny science and ignore climate change by removing all references to climate change from the website and replacing it with a policy agenda that would turn the U.S. back toward dirty coal and open up public lands to destructive energy development. As waters dry up and temperatures increase, the people, waters, and wildlife of the Sky Island Region cannot afford to ignore reality and return to dirty energy policies that destroy our public lands. We will continue to proactively address climate challenges and be a source of essential climate change information for all of our partners. We will increase our efforts to advocate for sound management of public lands that supports a diversity of life and the quality of life in surrounding communities.

Alliance volunteers building trincheras at Bacoachi

Alliance volunteers building trincheras at Bacoachi

The wildlife and waters of the Sky Islands need our strong voice to champion sound policies, good science, and solid cross-boundary working relationships. These are the pillars of our successful conservation work to keep this region beautiful and thriving, and diversity and inclusion are essential to Sky Island Alliance’s culture and to achieving our mission. Our differences—in thought, style, culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and experience—make us stronger.

We will stand strong in the face of divisive politics and remain committed to strengthening our binational community, building a diverse and inclusive work environment, and protecting our Sky Islands for all its residents—human, plant, and animal.

Please join us in this important work! Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date, join us for upcoming volunteer opportunities, or donate today.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!


WOW! We did it! YOU did it! We exceeded our goal and raised a whopping $69,566! *

On behalf of the entire staff and board at Sky Island Alliance, I want to offer a sincere thank you to everyone who made a gift to our year-end campaign. We look forward to working harder than ever to protect our beautiful Sky Islands in 2017.

Make sure you get all the news about the amazing work your gifts will support in 2017—sign up for our email newsletter. This is your alliance and you make our work possible. We hope to see you many of you out in the field or at one of our events in the coming year. Happy New Year!

* updated on 1/5/17

Our New Year’s Resolutions to you!

happy-new-year-bannerOur New Year’s Resolutions to you:

We resolve to build robust crossborder partnerships to preserve vast open spaces and provide safe crossings for wildlife throughout the Sky Islands!

We resolve to monitor more springs and restore life-giving waters and landscapes to ensure that all species–big and small–thrive in the Sky Islands!

We resolve to provide trainings and direct pathways to action for youth to foster the next generation of conservationists who will protect our Sky Islands for decades to come!

You make this possible. Please make an investment in the future of your Sky Islands with a year-end gift.

Thanks to everyone who has already given so generously, we’ve raised nearly $56,000 toward our year-end goal of $60,000. We need to raise just $4,000 more before December 31st!

Make your year-end gift today!

As we launch into 2017, we’re entering uncharted territory. Whatever the political landscape brings, with your help we’ll be ready. Your year-end gift helps us be more nimble to respond to threats–and take advantage of opportunities–as they arise. It’s an easy way for you to protect this place you love so much.


Louise Misztal
Executive Director

P.S. We would not be where we are today without you. Happy New Year and thank you to everyone who gives their time and money to Sky Island Alliance!

*photo credit: Randy Serraglio

Welcome Tadeo Pfister, Regional Program Manager

I am thrilled to welcome Tadeo Pfister to the Sky Island Alliance team as our Regional Program Manager. Tadeo brings a wealth of experience working in coastal Sonora Mexico on education, research, conservation and restoration initiatives. His strong relationships with Mexican nonprofits, academic institutions, government agencies, and local communities in coastal Sonora will enhance the reach of our conservation efforts. His depth and wealth of experience working with local communities to achieve lasting conservation outcomes is impressive. Please join me in welcoming him to Sky Island Alliance!

Tadeo’s previous positions include Station Manager and Instructor for Prescott College’s Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies, located in Bahia de Kino, Sonora, Mexico, and Senior Program Coordinator for the PANGAS (Pesca Artesanal del Norte del Golfo de California: Ambiente y Sociedad) project at the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from Prescott College. Tadeo is a native Spanish speaker and was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona, on the US-Mexico border. As the son of a large animal veterinarian, he spent much of his youth caring for animals and visiting local ranches on both sides of the border.


Tadeo is equally at home in the water or the desert.

Tadeo will manage a diverse portfolio of work with an emphasis on Mexico. He is passionate about building new relationships with partners in Sonora and engaging university students and faculty on both sides of the border. His work with us will seek to engage landowners and natural resource managers in conservation practices and monitoring of wildlife and springs, convene partners to develop binational solutions to maintain open pathways for wildlife to move, and foster a thriving community of young conservationists in Sonora.

Tadeo can be reached or 520-624-7080 x12.

Welcome Scott Wilbor, Conservation Science Director

I am thrilled to announce that Scott Wilbor has joined the Sky Island Alliance team as our Conservation Science Director. Scott brings years of experience working as a conservation biologist in the Sky Island Region and Arizona on diverse conservation issues. Scott was instrumental in developing the science-based system of Important Bird Areas for Audubon Society that many of us in Arizona enjoy. He will enrich our team and conservation work with his ability to link rigorous citizen-science to conservation planning and on-the-ground protections, in addition to his extensive regional knowledge. Please join me in welcoming him to Sky Island Alliance!

Scott’s recent positions included Desert Rivers Program Lead at Arizona Land and Water Trust, Conservation Director at the Cascabel Conservation Association, and Graduate Research Assistant at the Desert Southwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, University of Arizona.  Scott holds a Master of Science in Wildlife Biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In 2014 he received his second Master of Science and a certificate in Geographic Information Science (GIS) from the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, with a focus on large landscape conservation design, community value-focused conservation, and climate change adaptation. Prior to returning to graduate school Scott was the Conservation Biologist and Arizona Important Bird Areas Program Coordinator with Tucson Audubon Society for 11 years.

Scott’s passion is applying conservation science to achieve on-the-ground results that support the diversity of life and natural resources of the Sky Islands and ensuring effective land and water management and policy. Scott said, “After admiring the Sky Island Alliance approach of using citizen-science volunteers for tangible conservation actions and data-driven advocacy for many, many years, I knew that someday I wanted to work with the Sky Island Alliance team in a science-based capacity. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to achieve lasting conservation outcomes in our Sky Islands!”

scott-bio-pic-croppedScott will lead a diverse portfolio of work to protect vital water sources, monitor wildlife and their movement, protect connected open space, and develop responses to accelerating climate change. Scott says he looks forward “to working to integrate Sky Island Alliance’s diverse conservation projects, effectively engage citizen-scientists, and increase synergy and conservation impact, as well as integrating climate-smart strategies for biodiversity conservation. My vision is to achieve the most durable conservation portfolio possible for this incredibly natural and culturally rich Sky Island Region.”

Scott can be reached at or 520-624-7080 x21

Some post-election thoughts and reasons for hope

Following the election, I sent the message below to Sky Island Alliance staff and board members. I’m sharing it with you now, hoping the message brings you encouragement too. Whatever your political leanings, the new administration will clearly present challenges to environmental conservation and funding for cross-border collaboration. We have a lot of work to do in the coming months and years to safeguard the landscapes and wildlife we work so hard to protect and ensure science-based conservation and cross-border cooperation remains at the forefront in the Sky Island Region. With your support, I know that Sky Island Alliance will continue to be a highly effective organization and powerful voice for years to come!

Dear staff and board,

It’s been a challenging couple of days for me, processing the election results and what it potentially means for Sky Island Alliance and for me personally. I’m sure I’m not alone in wrestling with my feelings about this and thinking through what it may mean for our work. I woke up crestfallen yesterday and feeling a great sense of uncertainty about what the future holds. As the day wore on, and I had some uplifting conversations with wonderful staff and board members and supporters of the organization, I began to feel a comforting sense of community and a strengthening resolve that Sky Island Alliance must continue to be a strong voice for civility, diversity, and the natural world. There is no doubt that this election will affect our work. In the coming years, some of our approaches will need to be responsive to what happens with the new administration, but it will remain essential that we be a local leader in envisioning, protecting, and creating the type of world that we, and so many of our supporters, want to live in.

I remain deeply committed to continuing to be a voice for the amazing animals, plants, creeks, and mountains that are not able to speak for themselves and to treating my fellow humans with respect and dignity. My work and life is enriched by interacting with our diverse staff and board, and the amazing people who live in and visit the Sky Islands. I’m proud to be a part of Sky Island Alliance as we bring people together, connect them with nature, and build unity across borders to conserve our natural treasures. I want to share with all of you that in conversations with donors over the past few weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised to hear how much our donors appreciate our crossborder work and engagement with young people in Mexico and the U.S. Our crossborder work will become increasingly important in the coming years, as will our efforts to work on conservation in a way that engages and uplifts local communities. Thanks to our collective efforts and creative approaches we are poised to continue to grow this important work in 2017.

Diversity and inclusion are essential to Sky Island Alliance’s culture and to achieving our mission. Our differences – in thought, style, culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and experience – make us stronger, and the organization remains committed to building a diverse and inclusive work environment. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you for your good work to make this world a place we want to live and to make space in this world for the diversity of life that so enriches our existence. I can’t think of a better group of people to be continuing this essential work with over the coming years.

More to come as we see how things shape up for 2017. In the meantime, thank you all again for your work and commitment to conservation. I am grateful to be a part of such important work with such wonderful people.


Remember, this is your Alliance. Please make a donation to the Sky Island Hope Fund. Your gift is an investment in a brighter future for the Sky Islands you love. Choose the option to give monthly, and you can rest assured that your commitment helps sustain our work through the challenging times ahead.

Happy Trails Jessica!

Jessica Moreno in the Patagonia Mountains, visiting a proposed open pit mining site. (c) Sky Island Alliance.

Jessica Moreno in the Patagonia Mountains, visiting a proposed open pit mining site.

We are sad to announce that after 10 years of dedicated service at Sky Island Alliance, Jessica Moreno has decided to move on to new adventures on October 31. Many of you know Jessica from attending one of the dozens of tracking trainings she’s conducted in Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora, meeting her at one of the delightful talks she’s given about wildlife around the Sky Islands, or from her appearance in many natural history publications, newspaper articles, and on TV in Tucson.

Over the last 10 years, Jessica was an instrumental part of Sky Island Alliance’s work to build safe passages and protected corridors for wildlife. She engaged hundreds of local residents as citizen scientists to collect data that brought the construction of wildlife crossings to fruition in Pima County, verified the location of important wildlife linkages, and improved the outlook for many species in the Sky Islands—bears, ocelots, coati, and the myriad other wildlife we love.

Thanks to Jessica’s work over the years, Sky Island Alliance’s programing to protect wildlife and wildlife linkages is as strong as ever. “I’m happy to say that the program is ready and poised for the next great chapter,” Jessica said.

Please join us in celebrating Jessica’s time with Sky Island Alliance by sharing your memories, well-wishes,  and thank yous here!

Pine flycatcher—harbinger of climate change, ray of hope for adaptation

By Louise Misztal

Five years ago I wrote—in the pages of this very newsletter—about the effects of climate change that were already visible in the Sky Islands and that the region’s ecosystems and species were facing new and more complex challenges as a result. What I wrote then is still true to today.

“[W]arming has contributed to increases in wildfire activity, changes in the timing of species’ lifecycle events, and ecological changes in habitats. To further complicate matters, climate changes are interacting with other stressors such as decades-long drought, human land use, habitat fragmentation, and complex ecosystem interactions to create measurable and sometimes drastic changes in the region.”
from Restoring Connections, vol. 14 issue 2, Summer 2011

In my 2011 article, wildfire was at the forefront—with fires raging across the West, including parts of the Sky Island Region. As I write today, climate change is no less pressing. In fact all the evidence points to more rapid warming, increased storm intensity, and greater wildfire risk—but there are also clear and promising signs that species are finding ways to adapt.

This lonely pine flycatcher built her nest at Aliso Spring in 2016, credit Jennie DubersteinClimate change often feels abstract, with the impacts occurring in places we only hear about on the news. But earlier this year, when a female pine flycatcher (Empidonax affinis) showed up in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson, the local impacts of climate change came into focus.

This was the first sighting in the United States of this small, energetic bird that makes its living hawking insects in forested habitat. This intrepid female, whose traditional range runs from northeastern Mexico through Guatemala, showed up early this summer at Aliso Spring, one of seven Adopt-a-Spring sites monitored by Sky Island Alliance. She spent the month of June building a nest—an unusual investment for a lone individual of a species.

Aliso Spring faces many current and potential threats, not least of which is that it sits in the same groundwater basin likely to be severely depleted by the proposed Rosemont Mine. Yet, this little trailblazer of a bird found safe haven here. Sky Island Alliance is proud to have played a part in protecting this important resource. Through our springs inventory, monitoring, and restoration work, we are securing important habitat for the species that need it now—and for those we haven’t even considered might find sanctuary there in the future.

Spring supported habitats make up a tiny fraction of the regional landscape but provide unique and critical pockets of cool, wet respite for wildlife and plants, giving them a better chance to survive and adapt in an uncertain future.

The U.S.–Mexico border cuts through the heart of the Sky Islands on human maps, but birds, bears, coati, big cats, and all the other amazing residents—and ecosystems—of the region don’t recognize this political boundary.

As I wrote in 2011, Sky Island Alliance is not sitting by idly while habitat disappears and species are impacted. We have worked throughout our history to connect people and habitat—without regard for borders—and this work is more pressing than ever as wildlife and plants shift their ranges farther north and higher in elevation seeking suitable habitat. One of the initiatives we launched in 2011 was Adapting to a Changing Climate in the Sky Island Region. Through that initiative,

“Federal, tribal, state, and county agency personnel; academic and agency researchers; conservation organizations; and private landowners developed key strategies for addressing climate change, including solutions-oriented ways we can work together to ensure that the entire Sky Island Region is adequately protected.”
from Restoring Connections, vol. 14 issue 2, Summer 2011

We are building on early results of this initiative in a number of ways: restoring watersheds that have suffered from severe fire to help them transition while providing food and cover for wildlife; addressing pollinator habitat needs by restoring native flowering plants; mapping and working to protect the most important linkages for wildlife in a changing climate; and eliminating stressors not related to climate, such as damaging roads and invasive species.

In addition, we continue our work to identify and survey more sites like Aliso Spring, documenting locations, the amount of water available and seasonal changes to flow, and which wildlife and plants are present to focus our restoration efforts where the most important springs are found.

As climate disruption continues to change our local environments and impact wildlife, one tangible thing we can do is protect these safe and inviting habitats where they exist to give pioneers, like the pine flycatcher, a place to call home when they abandon warmer climes farther south or at lower elevations. This is our duty as citizens of this unique region.

You can help. Email Conservation Coordinator Samantha Hammer to join our Adopt-a-Spring program and monitor these magical sites throughout the year—you never know what might turn up! Or join us in the field for a volunteer work day or weekend camping and work trip. To discover opportunities, sign up for our volunteer email announcements or email our Restoration Director, Carianne Campbell.

You can also support this important work with a donation. Make a gift today to ensure safe havens for wildlife throughout the Sky Islands.