Effective Nov. 20, 2017, exploding targets are prohibited on the Tonto National Forest along with refuse for the purpose of target shooting. Biodegradable clay targets such as clay pigeons are allowed along with self-healing targets removed after shooting. It is expensive to clean up targets, shells and refuse, unsightly for hikers and horseback riders, and damaging for wildlife. No shooting is allowed within 1/2 mile of roads and occupied structures.
Peaceful walks at the Desert Botanical Garden November 10, 2016
As I walk through the garden at sunset I recall the healing events I have experienced here. Since about 1981 I have been visiting the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. I learned about it while doing a story on luminaria when working at the Scottsdale Daily Progress newspaper. The luminaria are paper bags with a candle inside lighting the pathways and the custom comes from the Mexican tradition of leading the way for the coming of Christ. At the garden, musicians hide in grottos playing instruments and bell choirs inspire in an adobe building dating to the 1930s.
In addition to the holiday tradition, the garden offers offrenda or an altar decorated to welcome the souls of the dead which may arrive here for one night on the day of the dead, October 31. I pause to let go and allow my loved ones to rise peacefully to heaven. As I visit a young woman stands weeping at the altar constructed to provide food and drink for the souls of the dead.
The pathways also offer places to grind mesquite beans into flour and listen to frogs by a pond. At a hilltop or butte we have seen a shooting star and on occasion a tortoise emerges from a burrow to peek at visitors.
In addition, our family came there for a respite one late summer night after my husband got home from work. We carried our infant around at sunset until a monsoon began to creep into the garden and we scurried to our car making it just in time before the deluge.
Photo by Darcy Hughes
The case for riparian protection and Pinal County Arizona November 1, 2016
The Gila River near Riverside in eastern Pinal county, Arizona, has water during part of the year depending on rainfall and releases from a dam. It flows along the Arizona Trail and is a wildlife corridor. Animals and birds in the area may include the western screech owl, great horned owl, ringtail, and a variety of birds, snakes, and deer. This is part of the Sonoran desert where rainfall is scarce and water has been a particular problem during 20 years of drought in the western United States and Canada. If Pinal county approves Riparian protection we hope there will be no dumping of treated effluent in washes and no building in or alteration of washes which carry water during infrequent but sometimes violent storms.
The iconic saguaro often graces the sides of washes along with less rare sightings of cottonwoods and other native trees and plants providing habitat for birds and other wildlife. Washes, or arroyos, provide protection from runoff damaging adjacent structures and human activity. While riverbeds such as the Gila often are dry, they once were free-flowing corridors providing food and shelter for Native Americans. Turkeys and other sources of food were available to people inhabiting the area before overhunting and habitat destruction decimated the game bird.
Offroading in and near washes destroys the stream banks and homes of wildlife such as tortoises, foxes, coyotes and burrowing owls.
A report by a county consultant is awaiting distribution and reportedly will detail the effects of a possible ordinance governing riparian protection.
Here are my title suggestions for my National Novel Writing Month project:
Stop and Smell the Cactus Flowers
Finding Myself in Nature
Natural Pain Relief: Essays on Living in and With the Desert
Meditations on a Thorny Landscape
Get Close But Don’t Touch: Essays on the Sonoran Desert
Listen and Look, but Don’t Touch: Writing in the Desert
Finding Hope in the Southwestern United States
Saguaro removed October 23, 2016
Quail chatter in an adjacent lot wondering where their eggs in hollowed-out dirt bowls are now resting. Confused deer dash through the area as they are losing their shelter. A bulldozer pants in the background after clearing a 1-acre lot and making a pad for houses. The For Sale sign at 16th Avenue and Sixshooter Road beckons.
In Pinal County, Az., there is no protection for riparian areas or washes and landowners can remove cactus after following specific regulations. If the landowner wishes to move or sell a saguaro, the owner must apply for a permit through the Arizona Department of Agriculture. There are no restrictions forbidding the owner to knock the plant down.
However, the Pinal County Partnership’s Open Space Task Force has made a presentation to the county manager about a proposal protecting land.
A model showing the locations of riparian areas in the county in south-central Arizona is being contracted out for reviewing ordinances and studying the potential effect on landowners, said Kent Taylor, the county’s open-space manager.
The proposal won’t come before the board while the county is still in a fact finding mode, he added.
October notes on our surroundings in the Sonoran desert October 13, 2016
Our surroundings that we are adjusting to include the pleasure of singing birds, the alertness of warning birds and the rattling of snakes. We are grateful for our cool mornings and evenings, wind and rain and the beauty of the rising and setting sun. Our place in the Sonoran desert is to leave wildlife, plants, trees and the earth alone as much as we can.
Fashioning people for our surroundings helps us revere severe conditions and dangerous temperatures and wildlife, but also to love the change of seasons when cool temperatures return and the snakes stay underground.
We have hearing, sight, smell and touch to help us protect ourselves and to appreciate our environment. Our intellect and compassion assist us in conserving soil and water and plants and trees and animals. Gratitude and learning to live with all things are our mottos.
We enjoy visiting forests and seeing the turning leaves and the different volcanic mountains in northern Arizona, and the Kaibab squirrels, scrub Jays and acorn woodpeckers have a different effect on the environment.