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.
Keeping the Canyon Clean on Monday mornings — volunteers arrive to pick up litter left behind by weekend visitors — cleaning picnic, parking, and roadside areas. Because of this effort, the canyon is more litter free than in the past, further encouraging both old and new visitors to keep the canyon pristine. Steve Pruess, coordinator for the clean-up crew, can be reached at SPruess23@gmail.com.
The Green Valley Hiking Club periodically maintains trails, cutting weeds & brush, removing litter, and sweeping the handicap-accessible trail prior to use by assisted living groups. Removal of graffiti from several areas continues to be a need, usually along the stream on rock surfaces, stone walls in parking or picnic areas, and on picnic tables and benches. It is a federal offense and those responsible are subject to fines, or more.
Conservation & Preservation Projects
Research activity is a strong, essential component of the Friend’s Education mission because it generates knowledge about the canyon and all of its diverse elements — geology, weather, plants, animals, birds, insects, and previous human inhabitants. Madera Canyon has been the focus of many research programs over the years involving ecology, geology, and biology of the sky island habitats of southeastern Arizona. Past projects include bat boxes and monitoring, hummingbird banding, and archaeology. Also see Cultural History and → Archaeological Survey of Grasslands, by Cynthia Benedict.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.