Article by Gary Boyer AAF Board of Directors:
On Friday June 28th members of AAF and AGFD met with the ranch manager, Erik Swanson, to discuss possible future projects on the Cross Mountain Ranch. At 10:30 a.m. we gathered at the Jolly Rd. / I-40 off ramp, midway between Seligman and Kingman. There we had a tailgate meeting to outline our plan for the day.
Cross Mountain Ranch encompasses 36 sections and is used primarily for raising cattle. Erik laid out plans for the future of the ranch that includes Juniper removal to open up more grassland for grazing and wildlife habitat improvements. Also approximately 20+ miles of existing fence consisting of 36” wire mesh, aka Sheep fence, topped with two strands of barbed wire. The plan is to have AAF remove various sections of the fence to promote connectivity for Pronghorn and other wildlife. AAF will plan on doing two work projects a year for the next 5 years beginning in 2020 in the months of April/September removing or modifying fences.
After the roadside meeting we began our tour of the ranch. The first two stops were to locate and inspect camp sites for our basecamp. Both sites are north of I-40 and offer easy access among the Junipers. As we moved farther north into the ranch we checked out fence lines and the general landscape.
Next we stopped at two separate wells that are currently not being used. Erik explained that both wells had very good water production in the past with one at a depth of 900’. Also next to the wells are large storage tanks connected to water troughs. The existing pump jacks were installed in the 1950s and although very interesting, they are no longer functioning. The discussion turned to the feasibility of reactivating the wells most likely with solar powered pumps. Pronghorn does require a water source within one mile of fawning grounds thus the importance of reliable water nearby.
The ranch is checker boarded with some other land owners and we stopped at one spot were the land owners had built an exclosure fence around their property. Apparently they don’t want terrestrial wildlife on their land, to create a preserve of some type. What was interesting to observe is the grazed land on the Cross Mountain ranch side had a healthy grassland appearance, while the “preserve” side was reverting to scrubby, woody type of flora.
The field trip was informative and successful in that AAF and AGFD gained a good perspective on what is needed to provide suitable habitat for pronghorn and other species in the area. As we left the ranch just before reaching I-40 a group of 8 pronghorn gracefully ran across our path as if to say either “get out of here” or more likely “thanks for looking out for us”.
AAF thanks the Cross Mountain ranch, Erik Swanson and AGFD for an outstanding field trip. Also in attendance were Kingman Region 3 AGFD personnel Erin Butler Wildlife Program Supervisor, Wade Zarlingo, Landowner Program Specialist and Elizabeth Johnston, Habitat Evaluation and Lands Specialist. Also attending AAF Glen Dickens VP/Grants/Projects Manager, past AAF President and founding member Jim McCasland, Betty Dickens our resident photographer and yours truly.