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Babbitt Ranches Wins International Wildlife Stewardship Award

 

The Babbitt Ranches in northern Arizona have been honored with the National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award from the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The Babbitt family began ranching in Arizona in 1887. The Babbitt Ranches encompass 704,000 acres stretching across northern Arizona between the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff. The ranches range in elevation from 4,200 feet above sea level near the Painted Desert to 9,000 feet at the Hochderfer Hills.

“The Babbitt Ranches are truly a wildlife-friendly ranching role model in the West. They actively seek wildlife projects that benefit the entire ecosystem. In many cases, those activities impact their livestock operation. Despite that, they continue to pursue wildlife and habitat projects that allow them to be the best possible stewards for their private and publicly-leased lands,” says Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Duane Shroufe.

The wildlife stewardship award, which was presented during the association’s annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, in September, cites the Babbitt Ranches’ participation in grazing lease planning and implementation. The ranches routinely opt not to use pastures impacted by drought, even if it means seeking pasturage out of state. Many fence improvements have been made and wildlife crossings built, allowing unrestricted movement of pronghorn and other wildlife. “Hundreds of miles of fencing have been made wildlife friendly through this effort, significantly improving wildlife habitat values on tens of thousands of acres,” Shroufe says.

In addition, the ranches have participated in numerous water projects, from building and improving tanks to providing large drinkers and even building water pipelines. All the projects provide critical water for wildlife species ranging from elk and deer to birds and small mammals. The ranches routinely make water available from private springs, wells and pipelines for the Arizona Game and Fish Department to haul water to other critical wildlife waters during the prolonged drought, and have also supplied a water hauling truck for the department to use.

The award recognizes Babbitt Ranches for their participation in a wide range of habitat restoration projects on thousands of acres of land. Many projects entailed removing encroaching pinyon and juniper trees from high grasslands that are critical for pronghorn antelope, a species of special concern in Arizona because of loss or degradation of habitat.

The Babbitt Brothers Trading Company also signed an agreement with The Nature Conservancy to create a significant conservation easement to protect vast stretches of wide-open grasslands stretching from the San Francisco Peaks to the Grand Canyon. One of the shareholders for the trading company, Paul Babbitt, describes the area as “a place where you can just about see forever and really be out of sight of the human imprint.”

The award points out that the ranches continuously strive to be an active partner in wildlife management activities on private ranch holdings and allotments. Ranch representatives routinely meet with Game and Fish Department biologists on wildlife distribution issues, habitat needs, habitat use and projects. They also participate regularly in the Williams Habitat Partnership Committee as a way to facilitate better partnership between the Arizona Game and Fish Department, land managers and the ranching community.

“The Babbitt Ranches are not just good land stewards, they are tireless champions of wildlife. They have embraced a land ethic in the best tradition of Aldo Leopold, the father of modern day conservation,” says Ron Sieg, Flagstaff regional supervisor for the Game and Fish Department.

 

Note: The Arizona Game and Fish Department prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, disability in its programs and activities. If anyone believes they have been discriminated against in any Game and Fish program or activity, including its employment practices, the individual may file a complaint alleging discrimination directly with the Game and Fish Deputy Director, 2221 W. Greenway Rd., Phx., AZ 85023, (602) 942-3000 or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4040 N. Fairfax Dr., Ste. 130, Arlington, VA 22203. If you require this document in an alternative format, please contact the Game and Fish Deputy Director as listed above or by calling TTY at 1-800 367-8939 azgfd.com