For a little over a year now, Summit Hut has had a program running called “100 Days of Service“. This program allows staff members to take time out of their work-week to volunteer in the community. Staff members are then compensated, by Summit Hut, for their hours. Over the last year, we have been out in the community counting bullfrogs, leading youth birding trips and doing a saguaro census! We’ve had staff members build trails, pull invasive grass and teach Girl Scouts outdoor skills at the Summit Hut Outdoor Adventure Camp. Most recently a group of six staff members, including myself, joined an effort put forth by the Sky Island Alliance (SIA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove barbed wire fence from the border just east of Douglas.
Me Pulling Fence – Photo by Sarah Williams
This event was interesting on many fronts: social, political, environmental and personal. When one heads down to the border, one cannot avoid thinking about the political issues going on, but interestingly enough the politics of immigration played a very small role in this adventure. Politically, this was a great partnership between a government organization, BLM, and an advocacy and service organization, SIA, which worked towards a greater good for all of us. The mission was simple, or so it seemed. Head to the border, a few miles east of Douglas, and remove a seven-strand, barbed-wire ranching fence that was acting as a second barrier for wildlife using this corridor in their migration (the iron vehicle fence being the primary blockade).
As soon as we got to our border marker, we could sense there was something amiss. Just the other side of the vehicle fence there was a bright and shiny, brand-new barbed-wire fence. Apparently the rancher had changed his mind about the agreement to remove the fence and he replaced it instead. This new fence was only a three-strand fence which does alleviate some of the issue, but still poses more of an issue than no fence at all. Without permission to remove the new fence, our task would shift. Our new goal was to clean up as much scrap fence as we could (and tires, trash, clothing…and a car bumper) that all acts as a tangling threat to wildlife.
The entire day spent down there was a tremendous reminder of just how amazing the southern Arizona desert is. The cliffs and rolling hills were amazing, the vegetation was spectacular, even the giant grasshoppers and their slightly annoying clicking were impressive. It was also a reminder of how human actions (and inactions) contribute to harming this spectacular environment. We spent just about five hours cleaning around 2 miles of border. We collected a trailer full of barbed-wire fence, eight tires, and a pretty good collection of trash, in just two miles! As we returned to Tucson, the crew was in agreement that more work needed to be done, and we wanted to help. Hopefully you want to help too! Keep an eye on the Summit Hut website and Facebook page for future volunteer events you can join us on and check out the Sky Island Alliance for a great organization that is out there all the time doing their part.