Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Arizona Land and Water Trust has protected over 50,000 acres in Southern Arizona with the completion of a 302-acre conservation easement on the Rain Valley Ranch near Sonoita.
Rain Valley Ranch is a historic working cattle ranch of roughly 5,500 acres and is also a priority conservation area for the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca. The Trust was awarded Military Installation Funds (MIF) from the Arizona Department of Emergency Military Affairs for the acquisition of this easement.
Scott Martin is ranch manager of the property. His family sold it to the current owners, but they still live on the property and manage it.
“It’s the nicest place a person could want to live and I’d like to see it stay that way. My dad worked here when he was a young man, and now I’ve done it all my life. Hopefully, my boys will work here all their lives.
“My biggest hope is that the entire ranch will one day be protected.”
The property lies within the Fort Huachuca Sentinel Landscape, one of only seven such landscapes across the country identified as a priority area for promoting and sustaining agriculture and other compatible land uses in a manner that protects nearby military testing and training needs.
This easement allows for continued agricultural use of the property and adds to protected lands that keep development from encroaching into the Fort’s vital R-2303 Military Airspace and Buffalo Soldier Electronic Testing Range.
With this phase’s completion, the Trust has protected just over 1,900 acres of the ranch with MIF and U.S. Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration funding. This protection from development will support Fort Huachuca’s 160,000 annual air operations, including flight patterns used by A-10 and F-16 training aircraft, and reduce proliferation of electromagnetic interference with electronic testing.
Rain Valley Ranch sits between the Whetstone and Mustang mountains and features a picturesque view of Biscuit Mountain, prominently featured in the John Wayne movie classic “Red River.” The ranch has designated critical habitat for jaguar and likely habitat for pronghorn antelope, Chiricahua leopard frog and other sensitive species. It is an important piece of a wildlife migratory corridor linking the Whetstone and Huachuca Mountains and serves as a prime example of native grasslands.
“This project is a perfect example of how conservation easements both sustain rural livelihoods and the mission of Fort Huachuca, both strong economic drivers for Southern Arizona,” said Liz Petterson, Executive Director for the Trust.