Unit 21 Black Mesa
By Shane Stewart, AAF 2010 President
The AAF found itself in Unit 21 again this October on another habitat improvement project. This project took place on Black Mesa which is part of the Cross Y ranch
owned and operated by Bob Ashcraft. The project consisted of the complete removal of approximately 1 ½ miles of barbed wire fence that dissected the mesa. Complete fence removals are one
of the most beneficial projects we can undertake to improve habitat. Therefore, this was a very exciting project for us to pursue as an organization.
Historically, Black Mesa was used as a major fawning area in Unit 21, so it is important to continue to improve habitat in the area. Unit 21 has been found to have the highest
fawn recruitment rate of any unit in the state.Therefore, this area is very important to the AAF to preserve and improve the antelope habitat in this unit.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has entered into a stewardship agreement with the Cross Y Ranch to ensure we have year round water on the southern
and northern portions of Black Mesa.Black Mesa is nearly isolated from Perry Mesa and the main pronghorn population in GMU 21. Black Mesa also had a serious burn, the recovery of which was delayed by
continued grazing during a period of low rainfall. All of which made the continued use of Black Mesa by pronghorn a very tenuous proposition. By removing the fences we have improved access to Black
Mesa for antelope, consequently we have recovered habitat that was once deemed marginal and now has a chance to return to it’s historic viability.
This project had a great turnout from volunteers from all over the state, including representation
from Girl Scout troop #9, Boy Scout troop #738, Friends of the Agua Fria private citizens, as well as our loyal AAF membership. In all, we had approx. 60 volunteers. Due to this turnout the
daunting task of removing all the posts and nearly 30 rolls of barbed wire was completed in one day. Everyone retired back to base camp on the Badger Springs road where they were treated
to an outstanding steak dinner provided by the AAF and prepared by Girl Scout troop #9 and Mary & Bill Keebler.
It is always exciting to have such a great turnout. It is especially beneficial to get theyouth, as well as the public involved in these types of projects. By involving the youth we are passing on
the legacy to the next generation who someday will hopefully carry on the legacy of conservation. By involving the public, we are spreading the word of what our mission is and hopefully
recruiting “brothers in arms” to help in our plight. The longevity of our antelope herds is in our
hands, and without continued work, their numbers will continue to decrease. By making more of our grasslands passable for pronghorn, we are ensuring our antelope “Freedom to Roam”.
While doing a walk through of the work site the following day, I was lucky enough to see a herd
of 12 antelope crossing the area we had removed the fence from, just the day before. “OUR WORK, WORKED!” By this observation of immediate usage it shows that this area is still a
viable part of the habitat for GMU 21 pronghorn. Hence, it may be one of the more biological meaningful projects accomplished to date. It is very fortunate that this area was made access
-friendly while unit 21 pronghorn still remembered that Black Mesa was part of their habitat.
If you have never taken part in a work project, I encourage you to join us. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Our pronghorn are depending on it.
Thanks to our project volunteers: Bob Ashcraft, Scott & Jen Anderson, Tim Flood, Daniel
Hatley, Carl Howard, Bill & Mary Keebler, Jerry Guevin, Dave Laird, Don Lorentzen, Josh Lowdy, Jimmy Mehen, Audrey Navarro, Mike Nushalesy, Richard Ockenfels, Nick Rudnick,
Shane Stewart, Mark Vale, Bryce Waddell, Vilma Ward, Jessica Winter, John Wintersteen, Boy Scout Troop #738 - Ken Ward Scoutmaster, Girl Scout Troop #9 - Jen Anderson Leader, Troy
Christensen, AZ Game & Fish, Jake Fousek, AZ Game & Fish