We set out early and headed to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge which has it's headquarters just north of the Mexican border near Sasabe, Arizona which is a port of entry into the U.S.. Buenos Aires is approximately 118,000 acres of land with a history of cattle ranching that is now the only place in the United States that the endangered Masked Bobwhite Quail can be found in the wild. BANWR also is home to several other endangered species including the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, the Chiracahua Leopard Frog, the Pima Pineapple Cactus, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and the Kearney's Bluestar. Any one of these endangered plants or animals would make this a very special place but to have them all in one small protected place is amazing.
From above the old mesquite cattle pen the effects of all those years of cattle grazing can be seen here as what was once open grassland has been over taken by Mesquite trees. It's all about habitat and changes in a specie's population can almost always be traced back to habitat destruction and habitat destruction can almost always be traced to human intervention.
This time of year the grasses have turned golden brown and when there is water available an abundance of wildlife is present. BANWR is really three separate habitats combined into one great refuge. There is the grasslands, the cienega and the canyon habitats and I have been fortunate enough to have visited and photographed each one of these enormously important and beautiful places.
The fair draws an incredible number of people considering it's remote location. Representatives from Tohono Chul, The Sonoran Desert Museum and many others brought snakes, lizards, tarantula's, hawks, owls, and a variety of exhibits to share knowledge of the natural world and their particular organization. There were presentations throughout the day about the natural history of the area and there was lots of networking with old friends and new.
As everyone that knows me already knows I have a passion for photographing the world of nature and I love to promote places like Buenos Aires. Protecting Americas wildlife and wildlands is one of the most important issues facing the country and the world. It's a shame that pushing wildlife to the brink of extinction is such a common occurrence but by supporting the people on the front lines with our donations and time and especially our voice we can make a huge difference in the lives of many of the species that would simply disappear.
Sally Gall who is the Wildlife Refuge Manager quizzed the crowd on the number of refuges nation wide (555) and when BANWR was first established (1985) and kept everyone informed about the days events. I had a chance to talk to Sally briefly about the Masked Bobwhite Breeding Program and I hope to with, Sally's blessing, do a very special post on the bird and it's progress in the near future.
Plata of Nogales played music during the day and the people really enjoyed their Peruvian origins.
The driving force behind the grasslands fair is Richard Conway, geologist, committed conservationist and all around nice guy. Working through the FOBANWR Richard has made significant contributions to the refuge in both time and spirit.
The highlight of the day came near the end of the fair when Mexicayotl Academy Azteca Dancers performed. With seemingly unlimited energy and a sense of humor the dancers sweep the crowd up in it's rhythms.
I really appreciated the connection between the dance and the care of nature as well as the involvement of everyone present. Truly fun with a touch of spirit and oneness.