Arizona Land and Water Trust acquires conservation easement over 1,000 acres of important wetland and native grassland in the Whitewater Draw. - May 4, 2011

Each winter, along southern Arizona’s Whitewater Draw, thousands of sandhill cranes arrive at Sandhill Farm to feed, loaf and prepare to migrate. This week, Arizona Land and Water Trust acquired a conservation easement to permanently protect the 1,000 acre Sandhill Farm. Protection of this property from future development is a long-time objective of both the Trust and landowners Blanton and Betty Belk. The project expands migratory bird preserves in the Sulphur Springs Valley, including the 1,500 acre Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area to the south owned by Arizona Game and Fish. Game and Fish biologists recently reported a record 40,499 wintering sandhill cranes at Whitewater Draw, providing an unparalleled wildlife watching opportunity in southern Arizona.

Sandhill Farm, located in the Sulphur Springs Valley, contains an intermittently flooded wetland with riparian habitat and grasslands. The Valley is home to farms and ranches that enhance feeding opportunities for such species as sandhill cranes, doves, Mexican ducks, mallards, pintails, collared peccary and mule deer. “The protection of Sandhill Farm is critical to conserving both resident and migratory waterbird and grassland bird populations. The success of this project will ensure the property remains intact as a vital wetland site in southeastern Arizona”, says Liz Petterson, Land & Water Program Director for the Trust.

Crisp winter mornings you will find Blanton and Betty on the Farm working to restore native wetland grasses or watching their grandchildren in the rowboat on one of the Farm’s ponds. Said Blanton Belk, “We are thrilled that these 1000 acres are preserved in perpetuity for the environment, wildlife, and future generations. Thank you to Arizona Land and Water Trust.”

Arizona Land and Water Trust acquired the conservation easement with funding from private individuals and a grant under the National Areas Wetland Conservation Act. "ALWT is proud to be a part of Sandhill Farm's efforts to expand protection for the sandhill crane and other migratory species along this critical flyway in perpetuity", said Alex Hobson, President. "The project was successful in no small part because of the dedication of our professional staff to develop a good, long-term relationship with the landowners based on a solid, sustainable conservation agreement."

(Photo: ©Charlene Mitchell,

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