Newsletter Highlights:
  • Meet AZ Rancher and Conservationist, Steve Turcotte
  • 10 years of Conservation
  • Educate yourself, A Day on the Ranch with Shelley Blackmore
  • Natural Resource Corner, Juniper Control: Before and After
  • About Us
Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
May 2020 Newsletter
Meet AZ Rancher and Conservationist
An Interview with Steve Turcotte, Winkelman NRCD
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.

I was born in Patuxent River, Maryland, the son of a Navy test pilot. After his death, my mother remarried and I was raised in Michigan. Before going off to college I worked on a dairy farm, at an equestrian center, and as a horse camp counselor. I graduated from Marquette University and later on earned Masters degrees from the Naval War College and Salve Regina University. After college I was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy. I spent the next 30 years as a Navy pilot, completing my career as an Admiral commanding 22 Naval Bases on the East Coast. Upon retiring from active duty, I moved to Tucson and ran a small aerospace manufacturing firm. Retiring again eight years ago, I have since been concentrating on improving the ranch and working in the local community. My wife Jane is a clinical psychologist who has been working as a contractor in the VA Healthcare system. She is retiring this year and plans to spend more time helping at our ranch.  
What is the history of your ranch?

My wife and I bought our ranch in Aravaipa Canyon from Jep and Peggy White, Third Generation Ranchers. They raised goats and cattle until 1942 and then moved entirely to a cow/calf operation. I have been working on improvements and adding additional land over the last 20 years.  In 2013, I added land from the old Holy Joe Ranch and from the BLM.  We are now a cow/calf operation under Aravaipa Land and Cattle and sell packaged grass fed beef at local markets under Aravaipa Canyon Ranch. 
What breed of cattle do your raise? 

In the past I have experimented with Braford and Brangus cross but have settled on Angus based with a little ear. Most of the ranch is rugged country, including upland and mountain range, but we have had good luck with this cross.  The carcass data for grade and marbling has increased significantly and the cattle are doing well on the ranch.    
What kind of conservation work have you done on your operation?

We have instituted a number of practices to include cross fencing to facilitate prescribed grazing, water development and conservation, and invasive species eradication.  My end-goal is to retain a sustainable, healthy, and diverse landscape while maintaining a stable livestock and wildlife population.  

What, in terms of conservation work, is next for your operation?

We plan on adding additional wildlife watering facilities to aid in maintaining and improving big game species habitation and allowing wildlife use at livestock watering facilities throughout the year by leaving waters on and providing ramps. Additionally, I want to work on major soil erosion projects and finish the remaining cross fencing.
What sort of technologies have you implemented on your ranch and how have they changed over the years?

As we have been developing waters, the entire system is powered by solar pumps. The added waters, solar pumps, and new pipe technologies have enabled me to place waters in places that were difficult, if not impossible, before.   
How long have you been involved with NRCDs?

I first became involved with NRCDs 22 years ago while I was the commanding officer of NAS Jacksonville. I had an issue on one of my bombing ranges with Fish and Wildlife, Forest Service, and BLM. The local NRCD helped me get the issue resolved. As a Navy Admiral I served on the Chesapeake Bay Commission and worked closely with several NRCDs adjacent to the bay. Again, they were very helpful in getting conservation practices in place.  

Why did you get involved with NRCDs?

When I purchased the ranch I wanted to become involved with local issues.  I thought that I could bring my past experience in the Navy with government, land management, and NEPA/ESA to help our local area. I started attending NRCD meetings and was subsequently asked to serve as a supervisor. 
What changes have you seen in the Winkelman NRCD since you joined?

I think the biggest change in Winkelman NRCD is the amount of projects that we have started and finished in the last couple of years. The District has been involved with several major issues and contracts to include the Sunzia energy corridor, invasive species management, community learning garden, and several other conservation contracts that are active and/or becoming active. In addition, our Education Center is about to take custody of some land on the San Pedro River, which will serve as a home base for conservation education. 

What is your favorite thing about being involved with NRCDs? 

Being involved with the local community and being able to make a difference. Our ability to work with federal, state, and local agencies to put conservation practices in place on-the-ground is unique and very gratifying.  I feel we owe it to the land, the people, and our future generations.   
Thank you Steve Turcotte!
10 Years of Conservation
In 2007, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) launched the national Healthy Lands Initiative (HLI) program to “accelerate land restoration, increase productivity, and improve the health of public lands in the Western United States." Over the last 10 years, the AACD, AZ NRCDs; Arizona ranchers, private landowners, and managers; and multiple state and federal partners have collaborated on two HLI projects, the Healthy Landscapes Partnership (HLP) program and the Arizona Landscapes Enhancement Collaborative (ALEC), which saw almost  $19 million  dollars of on-the-ground natural resource conservation improvements across the state! Both projects saw the successful completion of program goals: decrease and/or eliminate invasive plant species, limit shrub encroachment within native grasslands, decrease habitat fragmentation, manage altered fire regimes and fuel loads, and improve water quality and quantity. 

Between 2010-2015, the AACD and Arizona’s Conservation Districts were engaged in a cooperative agreement with the BLM to implement the HLP program in Arizona. Over this five-year period, the AACD administered over  $2.4  million in funding from the BLM and incorporated over  $3.83  million in leveraged funds and in-kind match towards program goals. But the work didn’t stop there! From 2015-2020, AACD and Arizona’s Conservation Districts were engaged to implement the ALEC program. Over this second five-year period, the AACD administered over  $2.38  million in funding from the BLM and incorporated over $10 million in leveraged funds and in-kind match!   

WE SHOULD ALL BE VERY PROUD! This was an astounding accomplishment! 
Educate Yourself!
" A day on the ranch with Shelley Blackmore"
Natural Resource Corner
"Juniper Control... Before and After!"
Did you know Juniper trees are considered invasive in certain ecosystems? Did you know that while Juniper is prolific across the state of Arizona  now , it  wasn’t  that way 100, even 50 years ago? The AACD works with federal and state agencies, ranchers, and other landowners to restore grasslands and woodlands to more productive and sustainable conditions. So why is controlling Juniper important?
1. Water - Juniper competes strongly for water with other native species, like grasses and other forage that wildlife and livestock depend on for food and shelter.  

2. Soil erosion – As Juniper drinks up all the water, it pushes out grasses and other plants that would otherwise create ground cover to protect the soil. Reduced ground cover increases flood runoff, increases sediment that lowers water quality, and erosion that reduces soil productivity. 

3. Wildfire – Every year Arizona is impacted by wildfires. Dense juniper growth provides ample fuel for wildfires, which threatens wildlife and livestock, people, and homes and property.  

Conclusion? By thinning-out Juniper, grassland restoration is possible, which means more native species for wildlife and livestock forage, erosion control, and reduced fuels for catastrophic fires. 
Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
"About Us"
In 1944, the Arizona Natural Resource Conservation Districts (NRCDs) 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 & 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"