Newsletter Highlights:
  • Meet Your Local Conservationist, An Interview with Andy Smallhouse
  • District Spotlight, Redington, Winkelman, Pima, & Fredonia
  • Conservation Corner, Arizona Fires
  • District Fire Relief
Conserve. Grow. Live.
July 2020 Newsletter
Special Edition - Fire Season
Meet Your Local Conservationist
An Interview with Andy Smallhouse
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.

I’m a 5 th  generation rancher and current owner/operator of Carlink Ranch with my wife, Stefanie (AZ Farm Bureau President), and our two kids Hannah and Johnny. I took over the Carlink’s operation in 2000 after my father passed away.  
What is the history of your ranch?

My great-great-grandfather, William Bayless, settled his cattle operation in the Redington area in 1884 after moving from Kansas.
What breed of cattle do you raise? Do you raise other crops?

We raise English Cross-Bred. Carlink Ranch also grows forage crops, we have established a saguaro wholesale nursery, and a custom mesquite lumber milling business.
Why did you get involved with NRCDs?

I am the 3 rd  generation of my family to be involved in the Redington NRCD. My grandfather was a founding charter member of the Redington Natural Resource Conservation District and my father also served. My family recognizes the importance of District work, which has made it a large part of our lives.

How long have you been involved with NRCDs?

20 years!
What changes have you seen in the Redington NRCD since you joined?

Since I've joined the Redington NRCD, I have, unfortunately, seen a significant decrease in the amount of ranchland and farmland in operation. There has been an increase in mesquite which has contributed to greater loss of water in the San Pedro and increased soil erosion and runoff.
What kind of conservation work have you done on your operation? Any future plans?

Conservation practices we’ve implemented on the ranch include rotational grazing, fence line/fencing improvements, pipelines, and wildlife-friendly waters every two miles. These practices help improve animal distribution which helps increase favorable native grass growth in grasslands, as well as reduces soil compaction and increases water augmentation. We've added center pivots to increase water conservation and improve crop yield.

What sort of technologies have you implemented on your ranch and how have they changed over the years?
Over the years we have changed the way we draw water from windmills and electric pumps to solar pumps. Conservation benefits of solar include decreased use of oil and gas and savings on maintenance.
Tell me a little bit about the work you've been doing because of the Bighorn Fire - we know you've spearheaded an effort to collaborate with multiple government agencies.  

The District has been out front to address imminent flooding and erosion damage as a result of the fire. It has been difficult to find programs which are focused on resource protection and rehabilitation.

How has the fire impacted your operation?
Because of the fire, we had an emergency situation where we had to quickly move our cattle herd. The fire has also taken huge amounts of time away from our operations – if we aren’t working the land, there’s no income coming in and it takes away time from our conservation efforts. There is a lot of stress and concern around imminent flooding as we get closer to monsoon season. This has also had a negative impact on feed resources, which could possibly last for several years, which means facing a possible reduction in herd capacity – this means another loss of income. These are problems many ranchers are having in the wake of these fires. No matter what, we will keep working the land and taking care of it for future generations.
Thank you, Andy Smallhouse!
District Spotlight
Redington, Winkelman, Pima, & Fredonia NRCDs
Ready. Set. Go. These are loaded words this time of year as fires burn thousands of acres across Arizona. Fire is a critical issue that never seems to go away yet is tucked conveniently in the backs of people’s minds once the season is over. For so many of our producers, however, this is not the case. Fires have short- and long-term effects on the land and thus on producer operations and, of course, our natural resources. Besides the obvious damage fires cause – destruction of homes, fencing, pipelines, water systems, etc. – the post-burn consequences that inevitably accompany summer fire season are just as harmful, because what other season is it in the summer? Yep, you guessed it, monsoon season. Heavy rains will compound the negative effects of a fire, washing debris downstream and destroying yet more infrastructure, rangeland and farmland, wildlife habitat, erosion control measures, etc. 

The Bighorn Fire in the Coronado National Forest has burned over 119,000 acres in the period of one month ( Bighorn Fire Incident Report website ), and the Magnum Fire in the Kaibab National Forest has burned over 71,000 acres ( Magnum Fire Incident Report website ). These fires are in the process of being contained, 78 and 88% respectively (at the time of writing), and a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team has been deployed. BAER teams “addresses post-fire emergency stabilization…in order to protect public safety and prevent further degradation of the landscape and to mitigate post-fire damages to cultural resources” ( BAER website ).

That’s great, right? There’s a team of scientists and engineers and others working to address the restoration of the damaged landscape. It is great, but BAER’s efforts are limited to federal land. Here’s a quick look at what BAER can and cannot do (scroll down to download the entire BAER informational PDF provided to us by the BAER team):
So while BAER’s actions may benefit private or state lands downstream, it would be more beneficial to all if this non-federal acreage be included and considered when planning begins for the damaged area. This is where Districts can play a  major  role in post-fire recovery and resource conservation measures. One such example can be seen in the efforts of the Redington and Winkelman NRCDs.

In response to the Bighorn and Magnum Fires, Redington and Winkelman NRCDs orchestrated an emergency teleconference between their District Boards and the Fredonia NRCD and Pima NRCD Boards to discuss the immediate and imminent impacts of these massive fires. Asked to join this urgent and important call were key stakeholders from the AZ-NRCS office, the US Forest Service, Pima and Pinal Counties, the Farm Service Agency, and the Bighorn Fire BAER team. Pulling together a diverse group of people from across state, federal, and local agencies to address a conservation issue is  exactly the kind of thing the Districts are here for – this is an amazing example of the unique abilities Districts have within the state. 
Not only did the call bring together diverse stakeholders, but also alerted the BAER team to the Districts’ and their Cooperators’ intimate knowledge of the land, which federal remediation teams don’t necessarily have. Through coordination and knowledge sharing, post-fire recovery and conservation will not benefit just one area and one type of land ownership, but all areas connected. This means more boots on the ground collecting information that can help identify, assess, and implement practices to recover fire-devastated lands as well as address the needs downstream that will be affected by the inevitable runoff and flooding once monsoon season hits. For example, Districts are working with producers and landowners who have been affected by the fire to: gather important data to help the NRCS develop maps that show in what areas fire damage has occurred; take an inventory of losses; identify priority concern areas are for flooding, erosion, potential debris collection downstream, etc.; outline long-term plans for grazing management, e.g., so burned pastures have a chance to be reseeded and sprout. 

As you can see, the problems caused by a fire are not over once the flames are out. By working with various agency stakeholders and their producers, Districts like Redington, Winkelman, Pima, and Fredonia are fulfilling the very first directive NRCDs are responsible for: “the restoration and conservation of lands and soil resources of the state”.
Conservation Corner
Arizona Fires
It’s fire season in Arizona, and many of us are all too aware of the effects fire has on the land, private property, and human and animal life. But have you ever stopped to ask WHY fires in Arizona burn as often or as seemingly out of control in the summer as they do? Or how, when controlled, fire could actually be a good thing? “Arizona Fires” is a high-level, scientifically based white paper that looks at and gives readers an understanding of how vegetation and soils across the state are, and have been historically, impacted by fire. (And you don’t need a degree in rangeland or forestry to understand it; this writer can attest to that!) The big question, “what can be done?”, brings home the point of the paper. But don’t worry, we’re not left hanging, an opinion to a solution is offered. Here are some snippets from the white paper to pique your interest:

“This summer, Arizona is again experiencing some very large and potentially dangerous wildfires – one has already joined the list of the 10 largest in Arizona’s recorded history. These fires can be very destructive and sometimes cause great loss of property and even lives. But fire can also have beneficial effects on vegetation, wildlife habitat, livestock forage, and watersheds. So, what are some of the pros and cons of fire, both wildfire and prescribed fire?”

“In general, there is considerable agreement that many of the changes we have seen in vegetation in Arizona over the past 150 years are consistent with a change in fire regime from that experienced prior to European settlement of the West. In most places there has been increased shrub and tree cover with a corresponding decrease in herbaceous understory – changes that are consistent with the response of these plant types to fire. The risk of fire and the intensity of fire has been affected by many factors…and the causes have differed somewhat in different vegetation types, so it is worth looking at several in more detail.”
District Fire Relief
Donate Today
Want to help the Districts and your local producers battle the effects of these devastating fires, and the measures they are taking to mitigate imminent flood damage? Click the button below and put “for the fire and flooding program” in the comment box. Or, if you’d like to donate to a specific District being impacted by the fires, you can indicate that too! 
Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
About Us
In 1944, the Arizona Natural Resource Conservation Districts established the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) as a means of support to help coordinate and fund conservation efforts across the state, and as a way to unify and represent District goals and interests. Since 1992, AACD has been a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with a Board of Directors comprised of one representative from each of Arizona’s 42 NRCDs. AACD accomplishes their directive to support Arizona’s NRCDs by establishing partnerships with federal, state, tribal, and local entities, as well as non-governmental organizations. AACD takes a holistic, collaborative approach to the challenges producers and conservationists face today and seeks to bring different groups together to find common ground in conserving our valuable natural and agricultural resources. 

Please visit our website to learn more about AACD and the Districts, discover the important conservation work they do, and support them today!
Arizona Association
of Conservation Districts
7467 E. Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85710
Have a story you would like to share in our next newsletter?

Contact: Brooke Gladden
(520) 668-3348
"Conserving Agriculture and Natural Resources Since 1944"