Las Cienegas National Conservation Area is located 45 miles
southeast of Tucson, Arizona; about 40 miles north of the US-Mexico border;
and, about 10 miles north of Sonoita, Arizona on Arizona Highway 83. Las
Cienegas National Conservation Area consists of 45,000 acres of public land
managed by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Las Cienegas National
Conservation Area hosts one of the finest grassland valleys left in the
southwestern US. This grassland watershed supports some ten miles of perennial
stream—a rare gem of green running through southern Arizona’s arid landscape. Together
these grasslands and wetlands provide homes for a remarkable array of wildlife,
including over 230 bird species, 60 mammals, 40 reptiles and amphibians, and at
least five endangered species.
This area has five of the rarest habitat
types in the American Southwest: cienegas, cottonwood-willow riparian areas,
sacaton grasslands, mesquite bosques, and semidesert grasslands.
The region's rolling grasslands, oak-studded
hills that connect several "sky island" mountain ranges", and
lush riparian corridors are irresistible to both people and wildlife. Cienega
Creek, with its perennial flow and lush riparian corridor, forms the lifeblood
of the NCA and supports a diverse plant and animal community.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are one of five species of prairie dogs and
the species with formerly the most expansive range – from southern Canada to
northern Mexico. Unfortunately, over the past 150 years their range has been
reduced to less than 2% and accordingly their numbers have been greatly
reduced. In Arizona, black-tailed prairie dogs were exterminated in 1960.
Fortunately, wildlife agencies and multiple partners have worked together to
re-establish the species not just in Arizona but across their historic range.
In Arizona, black-tailed prairie dogs were first re-introduced in 2008 at the
Las Cienegas NCA.
This area is also very important for summer nesting sparrows such as Cassin’s Botteri’s and Grasshopper Sparrow. These monsoon-associated nesting sparrows can be found here in abundance during the summer.
There are also White-tailed Kites and other raptors that use this area with at least one report of White-tailed Kites nesting within the Las Cienegas NCA.
Empire Gulch does contain nesting Western Yellow-billed Cuckoos and is an important migration area. This is shown in the included MAPS banding data later in the nomination.
Managed livestock grazing in native grasslands.