BISBEE — The U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have made it possible to take 104 acres along the Babocomari River and place it in a conservation easement held by the Cochise County Flood Plain Department.
The county Board of Supervisors members Ann English and Peggy Judd, acting as the board for the Flood Control District, accepted the San Ignacio Del Babocomari property Tuesday during a meeting.
Though there was no presentation, documentation provided stated the property is located along a 0.5-mile stretch of the Babocomari River, a tributary to the San Pedro River, and is approximately three miles east of Huachuca City, due north of the east range of the fort. The property is located in a priority wildlife corridor connecting upland areas in the Huachuca Mountains, Canelo Hills and Mustang Mountains to the San Pedro River. The purchase was provided through the Army’s Compatible Use Buffer funds. The county did not pay any money for the acquisition.
It is anticipated groundwater pumping protection and recharge have the potential to protect riparian communities along the Babocomari and San Pedro Rivers. TNC and the county’s conservation goals include enhancing river flows in high priority reaches of the San Pedro River and assist in the design and management of water recharge projects and other measures to increase flow within the San Pedro River.
TNC and the county look at the San Pedro River Basin as a significant whole system and the health of the system and the residents of its surrounding area are inextricably linked to the health of its tributaries, like the Babocomari River, surrounding uplands, subsurface flows and aquifers. The property is located within the system and the easement will protect multiple elements.
The easement will also protect a number of aquatic and riparian endangered species within the Babocomari River which are shared with the San Pedro River. These include the “Gila chub, Gila topminnow, Huachuca water umbel, Chiricahua leopard frog and yellow-billed cuckoo. The globally rare and groundwater–dependent Fremont cottonwood and Goodding willow stands and the surrounding uplands’ semi–desert grassland provide important nesting habitat for numerous neo–tropical migratory and resident birds, and riparian–dependent conservation targets. Additionally, the property lies to the east and directly downstream of three contiguous tracts that were previously protected by conservation easements and extends protection to cover almost 500 acres within this priority corridor.”
To assist in the preservation of these species while sustaining flows in the Babocomari River, there will be no significant groundwater pumping within the hydrologically–sensitive property. Recharge projects to gather stormflow and reduce sediment will be studied and removal projects of non-native vegetation are possible. It will become part of the county’s efforts to recharge the Sierra Vista Subwatershed aquifer and could become an area for the public to enjoy or may be opened to limited grazing.
TNC also holds easements on several other adjacent properties, but does not own the underlying fee. It is anticipated TNC will acquire these properties, once they have secured funding, will turn them over to the county.
Non–commercial and non–motorized recreational uses like hiking, horseback riding, wildlife observation, nature photography, educational field trips, picnicking and hunting could be permitted.
Should any grazing leases be requested and granted within the property boundaries, they will require best management practices and include a seasonal grazing system that identifies stocking rates, season of use, frequency of use, kind or mix of animals and related necessary infrastructure. Activity may include controlled burns, habitat restoration, seasonal confining of livestock into an area for limited durations for range management and other land management activities.