Mission, Goals, History
Mission and Goals
The mission of The Research Ranch is to formulate, test, and demonstrate methods to restore and safeguard the bioregion, and provide assistance to citizens and policy-makers in the protection and stewardship of our native ecosystems, natural resources and quality of life.
The Research Ranch provides 3 key functions: ecosystem conservation, research, and regional education and outreach.
Ecosystem conservation: to provide safe haven for a diversity of native species.
Research: to increase our understanding of how grasslands function, and to formulate, test and demonstrate methods to restore ecosystems in the bioregion.
Education and outreach: to encourage citizens and policy makers to safeguard and restore native ecosystems in the bioregion.
Prior to the end of the last ice age, southeastern Arizona was occupied by a variety of large mammals, including mastodons and mammoths, camels, horses and tapirs. The last of these large animals disappeared about 10,000 years ago, coincident with the arrival of early hunter-gathers to the area. The area was occupied by Hohokam, Sobaipuri and Apache at various times, with Spanish first arriving in the area in 1540. Intensive cattle ranching by the Spanish began in the early 1800s. Spaniards claimed the Babocomari River area, including the land which is now the Research Ranch. The San Ignacia del Babocomari land grant was established shortly after the Mexican War of Independence in 1821. Drought decimated the herds of cattle in the early 1890s. The combination of heavy overgrazing and drought caused severe soil erosion, which led to vast changes in the soils, hydrology, and biotic communities of the region.
The Appleton family purchased property that had been part of the original land grant, and acquired grazing leases on U.S. Forest Service and Arizona State Lands property. In 1969, the Appleton’s established the Research Ranch Foundation, a non-profit organization founded to manage the property and to study semi-arid grasslands. Cattle were removed from the property, and research began. The Bureau of Land Management became a partner by acquiring the acreage owned by Arizona State Lands. The National Audubon Society assumed management in 1980. The Nature Conservancy joined the partnership in 2004.
On April 29-30, 2002, a large wildfire swept from the Canelo Hills toward the San Pedro River. The 39,000 acre Ryan Fire burned 7,200 acres (about 90%) of the Research Ranch, consuming several buildings and generating dozens of new research projects on the effects of wildfire on ungrazed grasslands. For an interesting article on the effects of the Ryan Fire, see “Fire in the sky.” By Keith Kloor (Audubon 9, 2003, vol. 105, no. 3, pp. 75-79). Additional photos of the aftermath of the Ryan Fire can be found in our Photo Album.