Larry Fisher
Larry Fisher

The Cienega Creek watershed is a special place, lying south of I-10 in the valley between the Santa Rita and Whetstone mountains.  It stretches southward from the Rincon Mountains to the rolling grasslands and woodlands of the Canelo Hills, making the watershed a major biodiversity corridor between our Sonoran Desert and Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert.

The watershed is a mixture of federal, state and private lands.  Fractured ownership can lead to watershed degradation, even destruction. Cienega Creek, the core feature of the watershed, is protected by Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (70 square miles).

But state land, a major ownership, is to be sold to earn money for Arizona. Without careful planning and stewardship, state land sales can open the lands to development and degradation of both creek and watershed.

Mining in the Santa Rita Mountains (such as Rosemont) can dry up the watershed and pollute groundwater essential for Cienega Creek.  Private land uses closer to I-10, unless carefully managed, pose similar threats to the watershed and its special biodiversity.

How can the Cienega Creek Watershed be sustainable into the future, given the pressures on it?  How can essential water flows be sustained for the watershed?  What stewardship must be done by the State Lands Commission, mining interests and private development?  What sustainability principles and techniques apply?  How can different “parties of interest” come together for common good?

The watershed is featured in the fourth Water Sustainability Seminar at the Arizona Senior Academy on Wednesday (April 16) from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Presentations and discussion will tackle the challenges.  The seminar features presentations by leadership of the Cienega Watershed Partnership, a volunteer organization committed to preserving the watershed and garnering stewardship for it.  Larry Fisher, a member of the partnership and a research professor in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment, is organizing the event. The presenters are experts from agencies and organizations with responsibilities in the watershed.

Submitted by Ted Hullar, Academy Village Volunteer

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Cienega Creek Watershed: Sustainable or Threatened?: April 2014