Conservation through Education is the mission of the Friends of Madera Canyon, incorporating a variety of programs and activities that promote concern and action toward conservation and preservation. At all trail heads cards for visitor feedback are collected and responses tabulated for the U.S. Forest Service, as well there are boxes with bird lists & trail guides, all provided by Friends of Madera Canyon. The FoMC mission further extends to providing relevant conservation information to our members and the greater Green Valley/Santa Cruz Corridor communities.
Restoration at Madera Canyon
Restoration at Madera Canyon, a 9-minute video produced by Richard and Christine Olsenius for Friends of Madera Canyon (FoMC), documents the completion of the largest restoration project ever undertaken in Madera Canyon by the Forest Service and FoMC.
On April 12, 2022 the Forest Service and Friends of Madera Canyon celebrated the completion of the largest restoration project ever undertaken in Madera Canyon. Over 50 people from tribal leaders, Forest Service staff, FoMC Board members, project funders, hikers and restoration crew joined together for the early morning ceremony at the roundabout. Dodging nesting seasons, heat and monsoon, the restoration project spanned two years and centered around one of Madera Canyon’s most popular trailheads, Old Baldy.
In 2021 approximately 300-feet of the trail tread was repaired and natural drainage was restored by clearing culverts that had not functioned in about 30 years. Now, instead of washing out the trail, rainfall runs through the culverts into a nearby stream. In 2022, five team members from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) spent three months restoring 634-feet of a steep, eroded hillside between Old Baldy and Super Trails at the round-about. They hand-set over 1000 large boulders in a series of mini terraces and planted 270 native shrubs, bushes and grasses to reduce erosion and maintain slope integrity.
This was our way of helping to keep the Canyon a high quality outdoor experience for the 300,000 visitors who come annually. The Friends secured funding for this project from community foundations and businesses as well as our members. The private-sector funding was critical to releasing the matching federal funds needed for the restoration.
Conservation, Preservation & Research
Monitoring canyon ecology, on-going conservation work and supporting research projects/surveys are essential components of the Friends of Madera Canyon Mission. These efforts generate more complete knowledge about Madera Canyon and help us to understand and protect all of its diverse, interconnected elements- geology, weather/climate, life zones, habitats, plants, animals and previous human inhabitants.
Protecting the Canyon – A New FOMC Initiative
In the Fall edition of → Canyon Chatter (PDF) we let our membership know of an initiative by the Friends to prohibit all collecting of wildlife and plant life in the Madera Canyon Recreation Area. Some wildlife (including many plants) are already legally protected, of course – those that are endangered or rare, and nearly all birds. Game animals are also protected in the MCRA, since no hunting is allowed there.
In contrast, however, collectors, both commercial and private, have considerable freedom to take numerous smaller mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects, as well as many plants. And it is more than likely that some rare and endangered plants are also taken by less experienced or discriminating collectors. In an area as fragile as the Canyon, essentially open collecting cannot help but have a deleterious effect on the ecosystems involved. This is especially the case in a drought season like the present.
Over the summer, as we related in the Chatter, the Friends prepared a formal request to the Forest Service, backed up by thorough research of both the laws and regulations under which the Service operates, and of the biological basis for our request. In September, we submitted the request to the Service’s Nogales District Office.
The Forest Service has acknowledged receipt of the request, and we understand it is under review by the District Biologist. We do not believe that any changes to the Service’s regulations will be necessary to implement the ban on collection, but the move will mark a new departure for the Service. The Friends is also gathering letters of support for the move from similar organizations with an interest in the health of the ecosystems of Southeast Arizona.
We’ll continue to keep you posted on this.
Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. Nocturnal, they sleep during the day in protected places and emerge at night to hunt for food. Though most bats have excellent vision and a well-developed sense of smell, they rely primarily on sonar or “echo-location” to find food and avoid flying into objects. Nearly 1000 bat species worldwide, there are 35 species in the USA, and seventeen species identified in Madera Canyon and Santa Rita Mountains, including the only Arizona record of Ghost-faced Bat. Some live in the canyon year-round, others are “snowbirds,” residing here part time and migrating away seasonally.
Southern Arizona bats utilize different habitats. California Leaf-nosed Bats live in the desert, Silver-haired Bat are only found high up in Sky Island mountain forests. Big Brown Bats are habitat generalists and utilize a variety of habitats. Mexican Free-tailed Bat and Pallid Bat are the most common species in the southwest. Bat sizes vary, Mexican Free-tailed Bats have a 12" wingspan and weigh as much as 4 pennies (4/10 oz.). The smallest bat in Arizona, the Western Pipistrelle, has an 8" wingspan and weighs 1/10 oz. (1 penny!).
The majority of our local bat species feed solely on insects and an individual is can catch more than 500 insects per hour! Mexican Free-tailed Bats from three caves near San Antonio, TX, consume up to a million pounds of insects a night! Such statistics illustrate the importance of bats in controling insect pests, such as mosquitoes. Two migrating local species, the Long-nosed Bat and Long-tongued Bat, are pollinators that feed on nectar and pollen of saguaro, ocotillo, and agave blossoms - and famous for draining hummingbird feeders at night. Pallid Bats often hunt on the ground, crawling and hopping about on the elbows of their folded wings to catch spiders, scorpions, and centipedes!
Over several decades, bat populations have declined in the U.S. due to pesticide use, habitat loss and unjustified persecution. Our bat houses at 5 sites in the canyon, and at La Posada and Continental School. were built by Al Tozier, Bud Gode, Luis Calvo and U.S. Forest Service Ranger Don Marion.
Results? For a time, direct observations and accumulations of guano beneath indicated bats were using the two small, compact house designs, but not the larger, flat rectangular houses. Analysis of temperature data corroborated these observations. Data showed that large houses, with their direct, west-sun orientation, were often too hot for bats during spring and summer when they are most likely to be in Madera Canyon. This design, with a tendency to blow over in high winds, was replaced with smaller, cooler, improved ventilation models. A new adjustable mount allowed for precise sun orientation.
Remarkable animals, well-adapted to live in our Sky Island habitats are seen at evening picnics in Madera Canyon. Contact Doug Moore for more info at: email@example.com.
Two Passport in Time (PIT) work projects were conducted at the ruin with Friends volunteers and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) archaeologists in 2002 & 2004. These “digs” stabilized the remaining standing adobe wall of the house, explored circular depressions near the ruin and excavations in the structure’s interior fill for artifacts. Some utensils, tools, pottery pieces, glass artifacts were unearthed and the original rock foundation of the White House was uncovered. Friends volunteers and USFS archeologist Chris Schrager mixed adobe on site and performed additional adobe stabilization to preserve the remaining wall, applying an adobe mud top on the wall and rain splash-guard along the base to protect the original adobe from eroding.
The White House is believed to have been built by a sheepman named Walden in the late 1870s or early 1880s. It was used as a family vacation home in the 1880s by Tucson merchant Theodore Wellish, who may have been the individual that originally whitewashed the two-room adobe cabin, the origin of the name “White House Canyon.” The White House was a highly visible landmark and an important survey marker in the staking of local mining claims. After being occupied by the Paz brothers early in the 1900s, the Alcario Morales family lived in the White House from 1911 until 1941. A photo of the White House, ca. 1930, is on the cover of the 2009 Friends publication, A History of Madera Canyon, a detailed account of the historic structure's past and the PIT project work.
The Education Program 4th Grade Nature Walks visit the White House ruin and a docent talks with students about the White House, adobe construction, and significant Madera Canyon history.
This informative article with crucial information and excellent photos Living with Venomous Reptiles (PDF) is provided by The Tucson Herpetological Society.
Bud Gode Interpretive Nature Trail
The Bud Gode Interpretive Nature Trail (BGINT), the cornerstone of the FoMC mission of Conservation through Education, is a self-guided tour of exhibits in the 5 Madera Canyon recreation sites and trailheads. Twenty-nine vibrant interpretive panels illustrate fascinating aspects of Madera Canyon and the Sky Island region, including climate, geography, plants, animals, life zones/plant communities, geology/formation, Native American presence, recent history, and fire ecology.
Conveniently located, the panels help visitors learn more about Madera Canyon to “whet their appetite” before exploring canyon trails. Detailed, large-scale topographical trail maps are directionally oriented with highlighted trails, labeled features and important rules & tips for hikers. Accessible benches allow easy viewing of the panels, wildlife and canyon scenery, ensuring that the natural history of Madera Canyon is accessible to all canyon visitors.
Exhibit Locations & Features
- Proctor Parking Area & Trailhead: Interpretive ramada with trailhead panel; geologic timeline at trailhead; Madera Canyon wildlife tiles at Proctor Education Ramada; trailside plant identification signs, bat houses and interpretive signage along Lower Accessible Nature Loop Trail.
- White House Picnic Area & Trailhead: Trailhead exhibit; bat houses and interpretive signs along Upper Accessible Nature Loop Trail.
- Madera Picnic Area: Interpretive panel on east-side; wildlife-viewing platform and exhibit on west-side.
- Amphitheater Parking & Trailheads: Birding platform with exhibit, canopy-level bridge for wildlife-viewing with trailhead panel; the Amphitheater across Madera Creek for wildlife-viewing and presentations; trailside plant identification signs, bat houses and interpretive signage along the Nature Trail.
- Mt. Wrightson Picnic Area & Trailheads: Interpretive ramada with native plants; additional interpretive panels on restrooms near trailheads.
Read more about Bud Gode
A part-time student during his working years, Bud returned full-time to the university and Iowa Lakeside Laboratory after retiring. He took every biology class offered, trained as a docent at the University of Iowa Natural History Museum and volunteered at the raptor center. Bud was a primary researcher in a survey of Iowa dragonflies in the 1990s. Studying dragonflies became a passion and he published several scientific papers on the subject.
The Godes moved to Arizona in 1998. Bud joined the Friends of Madera Canyon and served as a natural history docent, clean-up crew coordinator, education director and president. When not volunteering for the Friends, he was exploring the canyon. He loved identifying plants, collecting insects and making written observations on the habits of Elegant Trogon. A leader by example, Bud inspired participation and love of nature. He provided proof of the power of one individual to effect positive change.
Proctor Native Plant & Pollinator Landscape
The Proctor Native Plant and Pollinator Landscape was proposed by the USFS for habitat restoration and as nature education/interpretation that complimented the existing Bud Gode Interpetive Nature Trail Ramada. In 2015 the installation of two picnic tables with ramadas in the center island of Proctor Parking Area cleared a large patch of surrounding mesquite trees and vegetation, making way for the planting of native flowering plants to attract and support local bees, butterflies and other pollinators, while providing an attractive natural landscape for canyon visitors to observe flowers and plant/pollinator interaction.
Proposed as a FS partner’s project between Borderlands Restoration, Sky Island Alliance (SIA) and the Friends of Madera Canyon (FoMC), the project commenced in summer 2016. The FoMC purchased and donated over 25 species of flowering native trees, shrubs and perennials from Desert Survivors Nursery in Tucson. Volunteers from SIA and FoMC landscaped the area and planted. Though not part of the initial work, Borderlands eventually added several species of annual and perennial wildflowers.
Now established and essentially self-sustaining, the nursery-grown plants initially required regular watering to survive. FoMC “super-volunteer” Dita Hagen visited and watered the entire landscape by hand weekly for over a year, with supplemental help from the FS and FoMC volunteers. FoMC volunteers also do seasonal “weeding mornings” to thin out returning native perennials and remove invasives like Desert Broom and Camphor Weed that threaten to take over the landscape.
Still some years from full size, landscape Desert Willow and White-thorn Acacia trees are already mature enough to flower. Wolfberry, Buckwheat, Tecoma, Hibiscus and other shrubs are also blooming in season, though it will take a while for the Ocotillos to grow tall enough to bloom. Penstemon, Cassia, Silverleaf Nightshade and other perennials are regularly reseeding. Native Fairy Duster, Velvet-pod Mimosa and Goldeneye are colonizing from the edges, as is a flowering milkweed vine. All the flowers are attracting pollinators! Already an excellent place to take camera, binocs and field guides to look at flowers and insects in spring, summer and fall, the Proctor Native Plant and Pollinator Landscape will continue to get better over time and provide enjoyment and nature discovery for years to come.
Capitol Improvement & Conservation Projects
Since the organization’s inception in 1987, the Friends of Madera Canyon has taken an active roll in assisting the USFS with construction, upgrade, repair & maintenance of canyon facilities and amenities, always with safety, protection and conservation in mind. Over 1 million dollars and thousands of volunteer hours have been donated to parking, restrooms, picnic facilities, trail heads/trails, bridges, natural history interpretive exhibits, habitat preservation/rehabilitation and nature education. The following is a chronological list of Madera Canyon projects the FoMC has assisted in since 1987.
- 1987 - 1st FoMC Annual Meeting
- 1988 - White House Bridge & Stairway construction (Nature Trail)
- 1988 - Proctor Nature Loop Trail paving
- 1989 - Proctor Parking Area paving & restroom/sidewalk construction
- White House Parking Area paving & ramada/sidewalk/restroom construction
- White House Loop Trail paving
- 1992 - Madera Canyon Visitor Information/Welcome Station construction
- Madera Picnic Parking & Picnic Area (East) paving/sidewalk/restroom construction
- 1995 - Kent Spring Center Cabin renovation
- 1997 - Patsy Proctor Education Ramada construction (Proctor Parking Area)
- 2004 - Mt. Wrightson Parking & Picnic Area paving/sidewalks/restrooms/picnic area construction
- 2007 - Bud Gode Interpetive (BGINT) Nature Trail construction
- 2008 - Proctor Nature Loop Trail two bridges replacement
- Amphitheater Parking Area paving/trail head & bridge replacement
- 2010 - Mt. Wrightson Parking & Picnic Area Eagle Scout BGINT exhibit landscape & reveg project
- Madera Parking & Picnic Area (West) Eagle Scout BGINT exhibit landscape & revegetation project
- 2016 - Madera Canyon Road Bridges Project landscape & revegetation project
- Friends of Madera Canyon Honor Wall/retaining wall construction (Proctor Parking Area)
- Proctor Native Plant and Pollinator Landscape (Proctor Parking Area) re-vegetation project
- 2019 - Proctor (ADA) Accessible Trail and Madera Creek viewing area
- 2020 - Amphitheater bench seat replacement
- 2021 - Aligned 300-feet of Old Baldy Trail and restored six CCC-era culverts to move water properly off the trail and into a nearby stream.
- 2022 - Restored 634-feet of eroded slope between Old Baldy and Super Trailheads by building mini-rock terraces and planting 270 native pollinator plants, grasses and shrubs to stabilize hillside
- Installed Restoration Partners sign
- Installed Indigenous people’s sign
- Installed pollinator signs