Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (CPNWR) is located in southwestern Arizona in the United States, along 56 miles of the Mexico–United States border. It is bordered to the north and to the west by the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, to the south by Mexico’s El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, to the northeast by the town of Ajo, and to the southeast by Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Located within the Yuma Desert, a lower-elevation section of the Sonoran Desert, the refuge was originally established in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep. It is home to more than 275 different species of animals and nearly 400 species of plants.
CPNWR is the third largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states. Its total area is 860,010 acres (3,480 km2), which is greater than that of the state of Rhode Island. The refuge is administered from a small headquarters building, located in Ajo.
The area is an active corridor for illegal entry and smuggling into the U.S. Since 2017 the skeletal remains of at least forty people have been found here, migrants crossing who died due to lack of water and/or from extreme temperatures. The Trump administration tightened rules against leaving food, water and clothing in such areas even if meant to save lives. Humanitarian aid volunteers were convicted of a misdemeanor in 2019 for doing so, and the incident touched off a debate about moral authority.
Provides 117,107 acres of habitat for threatened and endangered plants and animals. The refuge was established in 1985. The Refuge is home to 58 mammal species. Among the larger species are mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, javelina and puma. There are also more than 325 different bird species and 53 species of reptiles and amphibians.
There is also a small jaguar population in the area, which is contiguous, with Mexico. Between 2004 and 2007 an old male jaguar was followed by researchers in the area. The animal was called ‘Macho B’ by the researchers and has been previously photographed in 1996 in the area. During the study its home range compassed the mountains to east and west of the Altar Valley, which is situated in the Refuge. In addition at least one other jaguar was recorded in the area during that study.
The male jaguar, ‘Macho B’, is dead. The jaguar was euthanized after being captured on a snare trap. The trauma from the capture was too much for the 16-year-old feline.
Most of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is open for visiting and research. Guided access is also available through Friends of Buenos Aires NWR programs.
Some 3,500 acres of the refuge (about 3% of its area) was closed in 2006 to public access due to human safety concerns. At that time there was a marked increase in violence along the border due to human and drug trafficking. The closed area extends north from the international border roughly 3⁄4 mile away. As of 2010, this portion remains closed; however, the Fish and Wildlife Service reports a marked decline in violence.
Environmental degradation is the most visible consequence of border crossings through the refuge. A few years ago, there were 45 abandoned cars on the Buenos Aires refuge near Sasabe, Arizona and enough trash that a volunteer couple filled 723 large bags with 18,000 pounds of garbage over two months in 2002.
Resides in the floodplain of the lower Colorado River between Arizona and California and surrounded by a fringe of desert ridges and washes. The refuge encompasses both the historic Colorado River channel as well as a channelized portion constructed in the late 1960s. Along with these main waterbodies, several important backwaters are home to many wildlife species that reside in this Yuma Desert portion of the Sonoran Desert. Because of the river’s life-sustaining water, wildlife here survive in an environment that reaches 120 °F in the summer and receives an average of only 2 inches of rain per year.
The Refuge is one of the last major stop overs of the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds. Over 250 species of birds have been identified at Cibola NWR, including Canada geese, golden eagles, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, snowy egrets, and the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. Other species that inhabit the area include mule deer, Gambel’s quail, bobcat, and coyote.
Cibola NWR undertakes major projects annually including the conservation of a desert pupfish population, one of three that exist in Arizona.
A National Wildlife Refuge of the United States located in Arizona. The 2,770-acre refuge was established in 1988 to protect habitat for the endangered Yaqui Chub. The refuge also protects a rare velvet ash-cottonwood-black walnut gallery forest.
This area is part of the basin and range geologic region, characterized by linear mountain ranges which are separated by broad, flat basins. The region was impacted by relatively recent volcanic activity, leaving volcanic plugs and cinder cones visible throughout the San Bernardino Valley. Earthquakes have further altered the region and helped allow the flow of many springs and seeps. All of these dynamic geological events have played major roles in shaping the valley, catching and storing crucial water, helping determine the variety of plants and animals present.
The San Bernardino Valley once supported permanently flowing creeks, springs, and marshy wetlands. In addition, the giant sacaton grassland in the valley was once described as “a luxuriant meadow some eight or ten miles long and a mile wide.” The dependable source of water and grass made the area not only invaluable to a huge diversity of fish and wildlife, but also a center of human activity for centuries.
With expanding settlement beginning in the late 19th century came farming, mining, and livestock production, all of which competed for the same precious water. While the extensive wetlands here once provided historic habitat for eight different kinds of native fish, the lowering water table led to severe changes in the habitat and the eventual local extinctions of many species.