Pincushion Cactus
Pincushion Cactus

Twenty Years of Endangered Species

When the Malpai Group was getting started 20 years ago we really didn't plan on becoming endangered species experts.  Our region has one of the highest number of listed species known from any comparable area, with nearly 30 endangered species that live here full time, or migrate through during part of the year.  When we thought about endangered species at all, it was mostly to wonder what problems they would cause for us.  We certainly didn't think of them as an asset.  However, one-by-one, need arose to learn more about our listed species.  The Group's efforts have gradually taken a leading role in developing information about the ecology and management needs for several species. We discovered that in some situations their presence can actually be an aid to achieving our landscape goals.

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In early spring of 1996, Warner Glenn and his daughter Kelly were on a mountain lion hunt in the Peloncillo Mountains when they got on the trail of what appeared to be a large lion.  When Warner finally caught up to it, the “lion” turned out to be a jaguar.  As luck would have it, Warner had a full roll of film in his camera.  The photos he took of the jaguar were the first ever taken of a wild jaguar in the United States. Jaguars have occasionally been seen in Arizona over the years, one as far north as the Grand Canyon in 1932, but all seem to have been wandering individuals, with no clear evidence of a population north of the Mexican border. 

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New Mexico Ridge-Nose Rattlesnake

One of the Groups' major efforts has been to work with land managers to return fire to the landscape as a natural ecological process that is necessary to sustain and restore grassland and savanna woodland habitat. The early steps to accomplish this have been to plan a series of prescribed burns which are beginning to get vegetation structure back into a healthy equilibrium with periodic fire.

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Rio Yaqui Fishes

The San Bernardino Valley, on the West side of the Malpai region, is the northern   tip of the watershed for the Rio Yaqui, a river which flows for 300 miles south from here to its mouth on the Gulf of California. The species of fish found in the Rio Yaqui are different from any found in other rivers in the United States.

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The Lesser Long-Nosed Bat

The lesser long-nosed bat is a migratory species that spends the summer in the Malpai area. These bats spend most of the year to the south in Mexico, where they can find enough nectar and fruit from tropical trees to feed them through the winter.

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Chiricahua Leopard Frog

One of the first endangered species projects the Group got involved with was to help the Magoffin family develop reliable water for a Chiricahua leopard frog population. Beginning in 1994 a stock tank that had supported the frogs for many years began to go dry. The Magoffins started hauling water, 1,000 gallons per week, for what turned out to be over two years.

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2006 Jaguar

A new jaguar photo was taken by Warner Glenn in the Malpai Borderlands in 2006, 10 years after he photographed the first jaguar in the area.  It is not the same jaguar that Warner photographed in 1996. The spot patterns were different. This jaguar also was a large male. He was in beautiful shape. Looked to be an older cat. Seven people saw the cat as it went on its way.

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The Science Advisory Committee of the Malpai Borderlands Group is composed of scientists specializing in disciplines ranging from botany to zoology.

Did you know?

  • Malpai ranchers have cooperated with scientists to inventory the region’s rich biodiversity — including the most diverse lizard fauna in the US.
  • The Malpai region has the most extensive network of long-term vegetation monitoring plots in the Southwest. The data collected helps ranchers and public land managers to improve ongoing grassland restoration efforts.
  • The Malpai science program maintains over 200 monitoring plots to provide baseline data on the ecology of the region. Other research efforts focus on specific taxa like the tiny Cochise pincushion cactus.



The Jornada- Arid Lands Research Programs -

The Cuencos Los Ojos Foundation -

Jaguar Book -

Northern Jaguar Project -





The conference Keynote Address was delivered by Sid Goodloe who owns and operates the Carrizo Valley Ranch near Capitan, New Mexico.  Sid has worked for fifty years to restore and manage rangeland and wildlife habitat on his ranch while creating a diversified ranching operation.  He described his use of a wide variety of practices to restore grasslands and riparian areas and improve ponderosa pine and pinyon woodlands.  Sid’s efforts have been recognized with stewardship awards from the National Cattlemen’s Association, the New Mexico Watershed Coalition, the Quivira Coalition and the New Mexico Riparian Council.   Sid’s remarks generated a lot of interest and were followed by numerous questions and favorable comments.

Turning our attention closer to home, Brandon Bestelmeyer and Matt Levy, two of our collaborators with the Jornada Experimental Range, presented a description of their work with Malpai ranchers.  Their presentation described their framing and testing of alternative hypotheses for testing the effects of fires on vegetation in the Malpai borderlands.  Doug Boykin, Regional Forester with NM State Forestry, summarized our experiences with twenty years of fire management in the Boot Heel of New Mexico.  Doug’s collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and private land ranchers has resulted in the restoration of periodic fire to almost one-half million acres in southwestern New Mexico.

An overview of fire management and fire management policy on the Coronado National Forest was presented by Chris Stetson, the Fire and Fuels Planner, and Marc Stamer, who is the Wildlife Program Manager and BAER Coordinator.  Our first prescribed burn was completed almost twenty years ago in cooperation with the Coronado Supervisor’s Office and Douglas Ranger District staff. 

After lunch, Mark Bernal, the Fire Management Officer with the Las Cruces District Office provided an overview of fire management direction on BLM lands.  The Las Cruces District Office fire management staff have been key collaborators in our efforts to restore periodic natural fire to the landscape.  Myles Traphagen reported the results of his re-examination of vegetation plots that were established to monitor effects on vegetation in the Maverick and the Thomas Tank prescribed burns.  His presentation included an examination of weather and the changing climate on the vegetation in the established plots. 

Following the afternoon break, Charles Curtin revisited his work with prescribed fire on the McKinney Flats experimental project.   He then segued to a wider ranging look at the interactions between fires and grazing on western grasslands.  Gerald Gottried, with the Rocky Mountain Research Station, closed the conference with a report describing fire effects from both prescribed burns and wildfire in the Madrean oak savanna experimental area of the Cascabel Ranch.

On the morning of January 8th, the staff and board members in attendance met with our Science Advisors at the Malpai Ranch.  Matt Goode, with the University of Arizona, brought us up to date on ongoing herpetological research in the Malpai borderlands.  Don Decker filled us in on the recently completed Arizona portion of the comprehensive fire plan and plans for future prescribed burns in Arizona.  Finally, we had a wide-ranging post-mortem of the conference on Tuesday and discussed planning and programs for next year’s conference., HotDoodle™ Custom Web Design and Quality Affordable Website Designers for Small Businesses and Professionals
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