Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Appleton-Whittell and Las Cienagas COA

Two disjunct areas make up this COA: the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch and Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (NCA). The 8,000 acre Research Ranch is nestled in the grassland foothills north of the Huachuca Mountains and is managed by the National Audubon Society. For more than 50 years the Research Ranch has protected its grassland ecosystems through conservation, research, and education. The property is surrounded by 5 million acres of semidesert grassland, Madrean woodland, and forested mountains covering southeastern Arizona and adjacent portions of Mexico and New Mexico. The Research Ranch is a cooperative partnership among the National Audubon Society, USFS, BLM, TNC, Swift Current Land & Cattle Co., and The Research Ranch Foundation. Portions of the Research Ranch include the Coronado NF and BLM lands administered under the Las Cienegas NCA.

The Las Cienegas NCA occupies the broad valley between the Santa Rita and Whetstone mountains. It includes over 42,000 acres of grasslands and woodlands surrounding Cienega Creek, a perennial system that forms the heart of the NCA. The cienegas, cottonwood-willow riparian forests, sacaton grasslands, mesquite bosques, and semidesert grasslands of the NCA are five of the rarest ecosystems in the American Southwest, and together they provide habitat for seven species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including southwestern willow flycatcher, western yellow-billed cuckoo, and Chiracahua leopard frog.

Conservation Goals

  • The mission of the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch of Audubon is to formulate, test, and demonstrate methods to rehabilitate and safeguard the bioregion, and provide assistance to citizens and policy-makers in the protection and stewardship of native ecosystems, natural resources and quality of life.
  • The Las Cienegas National Conservation Area was designated to conserve, protect, and enhance the unique and nationally important aquatic, wildlife, vegetative, archaeological, paleontological, scientific, cave, cultural, historical, recreational, educational, scenic, rangeland and riparian resources and values of the public lands within the NCA, while allowing livestock grazing and recreation to continue in appropriate areas.


Primary Threats

3. Climate Change and Severe Weather

3.2: Droughts

8. Invasive and Other Problematic Species

8.1: Invasive non-native species

9. Natural System Modifications

9.1: Fire and fire suppression

Potential Conservation Actions

1. Land and Water Protection

1.2: Resource and habitat protection
  • Develop conservation easements on public or private lands in order to maintain and protect wildlife corridors and buffer quality wildlife habitat.

2. Land and Water Management

2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Remove non-native, undesirable, and/or invasive wildlife and plant species. Monitor the success of removal efforts.
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Research possibility of American beaver reintroduction to restore natural riparian system function and increase habitat heterogeneity.

7. External Capacity Building

7.2: Alliance and partnership development
  • Collaborate with partners across different geographies (e.g., statewide, regional, national and international) to develop and implement management plans, conservation agreements, recovery actions, research, management recommendations, and to determine the effectiveness of specific management efforts.

3. Species Management

3.1: Management of specific species of concern
  • Improve management and restoration of agave species to provide resources and migration corridors for lesser long-nosed bat and other pollinator species.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Chiricahua Leopard Frog


Abert's Towhee, American Kestrel, Arizona Botteri's Sparrow, Arizona Grasshopper Sparrow, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Black-throated Sparrow, Brewer's Blackbird, Brewer's Sparrow, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Hooded Oriole, Horned Lark, Lincoln's Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Swainson's Hawk


Bailey's Pocket Mouse, Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Lesser Long-nosed Bat, Mexican Long-tongued Bat


Mexican Gartersnake, Slevin's Bunchgrass Lizard


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • Las Cienegas National Conservation Area
  • Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch

Potential Partners

  • Bureau of Land Management
  • National Audubon Society

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs