Las Cienegas National Conservation Area is a southern Arizona grassland where science and collaboration are fueling good landscape health.
In the process, scientists are learning a thing or two about how climate is affecting this landscape.
Las Cienegas sits within a 100,000-acre landscape of rolling grasslands and woodlands. Cienega Creek, with its perennial flow and lush riparian corridor, flows through the valley and supports a diverse plant and animal community.
In 2004, the Bureau of Land Management, which manages Las Cienegas, invited the Conservancy to help develop and implement an “adaptive management strategy.”
The strategy has involved improving measurements of the grassland’s health with more precise monitoring of grass cover, shrubs and other grassland features.
The data are presented annually to project stakeholders, including the grazing permittee, scientists, agency representatives and others. This group discusses the management implications for the BLM to consider as it decides on management of the land for the following year.
The process provides better knowledge of ecological conditions, making Las Cienegas a living laboratory for closely tracking changes in the grassland – including climate-induced changes.
Among the animals at Las Cienegas are newly re-introduced black-tailed prairie dogs, which were wiped out of this area decades ago.January 16, 2013