George and Sis Bradt began teaching school in Southern Arizona in 1935, on the Sopori in Altar Valley. Their classrooms were always places of inquiry, mainly on the Socratic model. All variety of reptiles, rodents and rocks were kept in the classroom and significant time was spent in observation of them. (Photo: George Bradt)
Since 2001 the Trust has spearheaded an urban habitat restoration project in Tucson - a project that is neighborhood driven - and is centered on community education and involvement. The West Branch of the Santa Cruz River is one of Tucson's last remaining intact riparian areas. As close by downtown Tucson undergoes a significant revitalization, efforts to restore, enhance and protect this unique resource could not be more timely.
Restoration at the West Branch of the Santa Cruz River
Residents within the watershed of the West Branch of the Santa Cruz River are collaborating with the Arizona Land and Water Trust and our conservation partners to plan for, manage and restore the cultural and natural resources afforded by the West Branch. The neighbors are organized as the Santa Cruz Southwest Neighborhood Association and their stated vision is to maintain and restore a natural and cultural setting that supports riparian habitat, the historic mesquite bosque, biodiversity, and the beauty of their neighborhood.
As one of Tucson’s last remaining healthy riparian areas, the West Branch of the Santa Cruz River is an important remnant of the region’s richest original ecological area. As development pressures in urbanizing Tucson focused elsewhere over the past century the West Branch remained a rural, agricultural area. The people, plants, and animals residing along the West Branch were fortunate and as we now begin to appreciate the rare treasure that remains we know the entire community will benefit.
The landowner’s restoration and management plan, written by the Trust on behalf of the neighborhood association, is based on the Neighborhood Vision and is intended to guide future policy, land use, and restoration activities along the West Branch. The plan identifies several priority actions to support the Neighborhood Vision, including individual backyard revegetation projects, creating a neighborhood native plant nursery, and working with local agencies to re-establish the Santa Cruz Irrigation District.
The Trust continues to work with the community to protect the resources of the West Branch by focusing on efforts involving habitat restoration, species monitoring, land use planning, and landowner outreach and education. Our ongoing efforts to protect the West Branch also focus on acquiring conservation easements on sensitive lands and returning water to the West Branch channel and floodplain.
West Branch Outreach and Education
Integrating cultural and ecological heritage with riparian restoration on the West Branch was the focus of a class project at City High School. Administered through the Tucson Audubon Society, and funded by the Southwestern Foundation, the project combined activities honoring the cultural and ecological heritage of the West Branch with restoration designed to sustain the ecological habitat at its heart. Students from City High School, a recently established charter school in downtown Tucson serving youth from around the Santa Cruz Valley, are at the core of the project. The student project has concluded with the creation and presentation of a photo exhibit documenting the cultural, historical and ecological context of the West Branch and illustrating the work being done to restore and preserve the important riparian habitat.
West Branch Branch Pond
Read more about the project in the Daily Wildcat
West Branch Land Owner Plan in the Trust's online library