Unit 2 Assessment: Sky Island Alliance


Mountain view from worsite
Photo is property of Sky Island Alliance

Sky Island Alliance (SIA) is an organization that focuses on the protection of land, water, and air in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northwestern Mexico. Their mission is to “Protect and restore land, water, and biodiversity of the Sky Islands.” The Sky Islands are a set of mountain ranges in northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States. The mountain ranges protrude in the middle of flat, empty deserts. Each of the ranges has its very own unique ecosystems. As people continue to spread out, they start modifying parts of the Sky Islands. These modifications include building roads, houses, and having more people in the area altogether. The SIA’s vision is “We envision the Sky Islands as a bi-national place where ecosystems are resilient, nature thrives, and people are deeply connected to its unique natural heritage and inspired to conserve it.” Essentially, SIA wants people to continue visiting the Sky Islands, but without harming them too much. They do this by showing people the beauty of the Sky Islands and teaching of the things that harm the area. If there is harm done, the SIA tries to fix this harm in the healthiest and most effective way possible.

Sky Island Alliance constantly holds volunteer opportunities in Arizona and New Mexico. These events include land restortion, erosion control, replanting plants in dying areas, and many more. They even have an ongoing wildlife monitoring effort in Sonora, Mexico. The goal of this effort was originally to “document the presence of the region’s four feline species: jaguar, ocelot, bobcat and mountain lion, while engaging local landowners in wildlife conservation.”¹ They have since “expanded this effort to include carnivore conservation on a much broader level – [SIA] publish[es] new scientific discoveries resulting from our wildlife monitoring; conduct public outreach on the importance of carnivores to our ecosystem and our quality of life; and advocate for science-informed carnivore management policies.”¹

Group photo of volunteers
Photo is property of Sky Island Alliance

Recently, SIA had a volunteer opportunity at Madera Canyon to help with erosion control and replanting plants in areas that were cut clean for roads and a bridge to be built. My mother, my friend Carlos and I went to this. Upon arrival, we met many volunteers and members from different organizations. Once it was time to start working, we had the option to fetch water, dig holes, plant, build chicken wire cages for the plants, and build check dams. Carlos and I chose to build check dams. We were put with three members of the Arizona Conservation Core. They told us that check dams were mini dams made of rocks that didn’t stop the flow of water, but slowed down the water and allowed infiltration of sediment. Then, they showed us how to pile the rocks in certain places. We were building these check dams because, when the river was flowing, it was eroding a nearby road and the ground around the road. Surprisingly, a lot of thought went into the placement of each and every stone.

Carlos and I working on check-dams
Photo is property of Sky Island Alliance

The five of us worked for just over six hours, moving rocks and assembling check dams. Withing those six hours, we built about thirteen dams, each one becoming stronger and prettier as we continued. During the seventh hour, Carlos and I were assigned to start digging holes and planting. We grabbed pick axes and got to work.
The planting was a bit different than anything I have done before. After digging the holes, we had to pour about half a bucket of water in. This would cause a pool to form in the hole. After that, we had to wait a while for the ground to suck up all of the water. Then, we put the assigned plant in the hole, along with a gelatinous substance called Dri-Water. The Dri-Water (driwater.com) was used to water the plant until the nearby creek started flowing again. Next, we filled the hole with dirt, covered it with mulch, and watered it many more times. Lastly, we had to cover the plant with a temporary chicken wire cage so that the wildlife wouldn’t eat it. By the end of our time, I had gone through this process with three plants in different areas.

Group of volunteers planting
Photo is property of Sky Island Alliance

I learned a lot of new things about the Sky Islands, planting, erosion control, and so much more from just seven hours with the SIA and AZCC. I also got connections with members of organizations that I plan to join either now, or within the next few years. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I am excited to work with these organizations again.

After reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, I have felt very inclined to change parts of my lifestyle. Ishmael really got me thinking about the negative impact that Takers have on the world. One thing that I have really wanted to change is how often I use a car. I don’t drive yet, but I get people to drive me places very often. Reading Ishmael made me think about just how much junk I’m spewing into the air by getting rides. I am an active participant in the rise of carbon dioxide emissions. Plus, there are millions of other people on the planet driving just as much or more than me. With this SIA project alone, we had about 25 people, all of which drove a gas powered vehicle to the work site. I myself had to travel almost 150 miles both ways. Although the organization partly focuses on protecting the air, they have people drive to the projects.
However, SIA advocates for carpooling, and even had a bus that drove many volunteers to the site. Although Ishmael was against Takers and with Leavers, he also spoke about a meeting point in the middle of the two that would be fine. He said that Takers didn’t have to fully convert to Leavers. This “meeting point” could look like all the volunteers carpooling, like the SIA advocated for. I am unsure what Ishmael’s thoughts on this organization would be if he existed, because SIA has many Taker culture aspects, but also tries to find a meeting ground between their lifestyle and Leaver culture. I personally think that they’ve taken the first step, but are not quite at the right stage to not be considered full on Takers.

Plant waiting to be planted
Photo is property of Sky Island Alliance



Approximate and exaggerated graph showing that excess CO^2 levels at the sky islands increased at an increasing rate from the start of the industrial revolution. Levels started to go down when SIA was founded. After a few years, SIA learned how to effectively deal with excess CO^2 emissions. After that is a future prediction showing that SIA will lower excess CO^2 levels at an increasing rate for many years.
Approximate and exaggerated graph showing that excess CO^2 levels at the sky islands increased at an increasing rate from the start of the industrial revolution. Levels started to go down when SIA was founded. After a few years, SIA learned how to effectively deal with excess CO^2 emissions. After that is a future prediction showing that SIA will lower excess CO^2 levels at an increasing rate for many years.

Carbon dioxide emissions in our atmosphere is a growing problem.² ³ Humans generate massive amounts of CO^2 through deforestation, cement production, asphault production, and burning fossil fuels. This is bad because as greenhouse gasses, such as CO^2, continue to be produced, the more of it we have in our atmosphere. These greenhouse gasses allow heat from the sun to enter our atmosphere, but then block the heat inside, thus leading to a hotter world. The world heating up can have many negative outcomes, such as ecosystems changing. Sky Island Alliance helps with reducing the amount of CO^2 in the atmosphere constantly by planting many plants, restoring areas with natural resources, and protecting natural sites. Plants use carbon dioxide (CO^2) and water (H^2O) to grow. Chemical reactions then happen within the plant and release sucrose and oxygen. (6CO^2 + 6H^2O → C^6H^12O^6 + 6O) This means that the more plants we have, the more CO^2 is taken out of the air and used in a positive way; a way that helps us breath.


Using rockbar to deepen plant hole
Photo is property of Sky Island Alliance

Restoring areas around the Sky Island area with natural or sustainable resources, as opposed to laying down asphalt or cement, means that we also aren’t producing as much CO^2 as we would if done other ways. Surely, one small organization won’t make a monumental difference to CO^2 levels in the atmosphere, but they can take the first steps. If you are interested in helping to take the next steps, please visit skyislandalliance.org and learn more about the organization.



•¹    What are the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions? (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2015, from https://bit.ly/1u09zyr

•²    Google. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2015, from https://bit.ly/1KUpKD0

•³    Wildlife & Wildlife Linkages. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2015, from https://bit.ly/1WzuCVs

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