desierto's blog

Remembering Biogladiator Peter Warshall, 1943–2013

Peter Warshall

Peter Warshall was able to excel in many divergant endevors. He chose to put his multi-faceted talent into bettering the world. I knew him through struggles to protect Mt Graham, interests in biogeography, and work to protect jaguars and other species in eastern Sonora. Any time I read or hear stories about Peter, I learn of another aspect of his work that is surprising and admirable. Conservation Biology recently published an obituary for him by Joel Helfrich that is worth reading. Read "Remembering Biogladiator Peter Warshall, 1943–2013" here.

Sulfuric acid spill contaminates Rio Sonora watershed

On August 7, 2014 ten million gallons of a mining wastewater solution broke through containment at the Buenavista copper mine just outside of Cananea, Sonora. The sulfuric acid solution was released into the Rio Bacanuchi, a tributary of Rio Sonora, one of the largest watersheds in Sonora.

Rio Sonora is a key water source for many communities including Arizpe, Sinoquipe, Banámichi, Aconchi, Baviácora, Mazocahui, and Ures, along with substantial agriculture along its lower reaches. Rio Sonora headwaters are near the spill area just south of the US border. It then flows south over 200 km before turning west towards Hermosillo, which until recently used a reservoir on the Rio Sonora as its primary municipal water source. The Indepencia Pipeline connecting to the Rio Yaqui started delivering water to Hermosillo and its 800,000 people last year, freeing the city of its reliance on water from the Rio Sonora.

The contamination has colored the river a burnt orange and killed livestock, fish, and likely innumerable other aquatic animals. Grupo Mexico owns the Buenavista copper mine, which contains one of the larger known veins of copper on Earth. Effective cleanup of such a spill is not feasible. Likely many of the contaminants will be flushed by monsoon rains and flooding to downstream reservoirs, where it will remain in water and sediment.

Featured animal: Terrapene nelsoni, spotted box turtle

This species is possibly the least know of all the box turtles. It is endemic to northwest Mexico. Read more about it in thie 2011 paper Terrapene nelsoni Stejneger 1925 – Spotted Box Turtle, Tortuga de Chispitas, Tortuga de Monte.

Terrapene nelsoni seems to only be active in Sonora during the wetest part of the monsoon season, primarily the later part of July through early Sept. See more photo of these species in this Terrapene nelsoni gallery.Terrapene nelsoni, spotted box turtle

Rios en El Bronco - Rivers in Rough Country

Rios en el Bronco, Rivers in Rough CountryHere's an article in Terra Magazine (put out by ConserVentures) literally about Wild Sonora. Read about adventures on the rivers of eastern Sonora and see plenty of photos of the most recent trip.

"Our adventures into the river canyons of eastern Sonora began in the early 2000s after spending several years working throughout the bronco (rough) state of Sonora, México. My best friend was an avian biologist working in Sonora, and I had always been intrigued by birds, natural history, and landscape exploration."

"Our trips were driven by biological interest, deeply embedded wilderness exploration genes, and our desire to fill information gaps about the Sonoran countryside and its biota."

Read the rest in Terra here.

Liberty Cove mega-development

From the Liberty Cove website:

"The approvals included 60,000 dwelling units including single family homes, ranches, condominiums and multi-unit complexes. In addition, the overall Master Plan includes resort hotels, retail/commercial centers, golf courses, Formula One style race track, marinas and a San Antonio-styled Riverwalk.The Phase I Development Plan commences with 1000 condominiums, an 18 hole golf course, a Beach Club, a pier, a 50,000 square foot medical facility and additional commercial and retail."

This planned mega-development on the Sonoran coastline, which I wrote about many years ago, is finally getting some attention. The Tucson Weekly had a cover story on how the plan turned into a fiasco with everyone suing each other. Part fraud, part
ineptitude, this project was a pipe dream from the beginning.

The idea was to build an enormous development on beautiful, virgin coastline in the Sonoran desert near Puerto Libertad, Sonora. This area
is the middle of nowhere. If a potential client tried to actually see the place, they would likely get lost several times, feel like they might encounter cartel leaders, and decide they should play it safe and stay in Iowa.

The development would blade beautiful and untouched Sonoran Gulf Coast desert. It would have been one
of the most destructive projects for Sonoran wildlands ever conceived.

This new article by the Tucson Weekly is very good detailed account from a business perspective, but completely neglects to mention environmental issues.

Interest in "Conservation" and "Environment" declining?

Graph: Interest in "Conservation" and "Environment" decliningAccording to Google the number or searches for the terms "Conservation" and "Environment" have been in a steady decline since 2004.

Does this mean people care less about these issue now than in 2004? Sadly this seems like it is probably the case. See this graph from Google below - blue=conservation, red=environment (see graph at Google here)

Plant Communities and the 2011 frost on the Northern Jaguar Preserve

Frost killed thornscrub speciesFebruary 2nd and 3rd 2011 laid a heavy hand on the NJP reserve. An arctic air mass descended on southwestern North America, stretching its influence south of its typical reach. Individual species had their numbers reduced drastically. The makeup and distribution of some plant communities were altered. Rules that had governed species survival for a minimum of several decades were put on hiatus during a more than 48-hour period of early Feb. 2011.

Woody species hit the hardest on the reserve include Acacia cochliacantha, Lysiloma divaricatum, Dodonaea viscosa, Bursera fagaroides, Bursera lancifolia, Ficus petiolaris, F. insipida, F. pertusa, Ceiba acuminata, Ipomoea arborescens, and Lysiloma watsonii, among others.

More spotted cats in Arizona

Face of ocelot in Huachuca Mountains, November 2012The same ocelot that has been photographed on 3 previous occasions in the Huachuca Mountains has been seen again. This ocelot has a somewhat unique looking face and was first photographed in Feb. 2011. Face and spot pattern match all 3 other sets of photographs. The cat appears quite healthy.

Hunters treed the ocelot, reported and gave photos to AZ Game and Fish who put out this press release Nov. 20th, 2012.

See previous Wild Sonora stories about this ocelot here and here.Huachuca Ocelot November 2012

Another Jaguar spotted in Southeastern Arizona

Jaguar tail spotted in southeast Arizona, 2012A hunter's trail camera snapped a photo of a jaguars tail on Sept. 23, 2012. AZ Game and Fish released the photo, but have yet to make a determination on whether it is an ocelot or jaguar. It appears almost certanainly to be that of a jaguar. Sky Island Alliance experts are also convinced. See AZ Daily Star article here.

Pipeline to provide 80% of municipal water to Hermosillo

Pipeline for municipal water to Hermosillo - Independencia Pipeline under constructionThe Sonoran state government is building a controversial pipeline (Independencia pipeline) that will connect the state's largest reservoir (Presa Novillo) on the Rio Yaqui with the state's capitol city of Hermosillo. Construction is well under way with the first water to be expected around the end of 2012. Projected cost of the project is $323.3 million U.S. dollars, but completion date and cost estimates may not hold.

Pipeline for municipal water to Hermosillo


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