By Published On: October 15, 2022

A Southwest Success Story at Watershed Scale

If a person were to park on the border of Arizona and Nevada, step out of their vehicle, and start walking east across the Bureau of Land Management’s Arizona Strip District, it would be many days, perhaps even weeks, before they reached the other side. The scale of the landscape is nearly incomprehensible. There is little water to be found, and depending on the time of year, temperatures soar well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

So in this vast corner of Arizona, how are managers implementing projects that can stand up against the mounting challenges of climate change, expanding trees and other woody species, invasive grasses, wildfire, and more?

They’re thinking big. Watershed- and landscape-scale big, to be exact.

“We’re looking at this landscape as a whole and being more strategic, instead of throwing darts at a dartboard,” says Stephanie Grischkowsky, a wildlife biologist with the BLM’s Arizona Strip District.

Grischkowsky and her colleagues are breaking down the challenges they’re faced with on the Arizona Strip and seeing tangible, lasting benefits as a result.

A satellite view of the BLM Arizona Strip District, with a yellow star highlighting the story area.

The BLM’s Arizona Strip District manages 2.8 million acres in the northwestern corner of Arizona, balancing many resource values including wildlife habitat, forage for livestock grazing, and important cultural areas. Hundreds of species of wildlife call this land home including pronghorn, mule deer, pinyon jays, bighorn sheep, and California condors. Ranchers utilize grazing allotments for cattle. Visitors come from across the globe to enjoy recreation opportunities and solitude. And at the helm, land managers must take all interests into account when planning and implementing projects.

For Ben Ott, a rangeland management specialist with the Arizona Strip District who has worked on this landscape for decades, it’s important to think about project impacts far beyond the present or near future. One of those projects is Buck Pasture Canyon.

Buck Pasture Canyon lies within the Buckskin Mountains on the eastern side of the District, sitting on a plateau high above the sunbaked valley floor. Driving into the area, it’s instantly clear how successful this project still is more than a decade after its implementation in 2009.