Additionally, there is a rich culture of ranching and a history that ties people to the land.Beginning in the 90s environmentalists began to work with ranchers to develop strategies, norms, and rules regarding conservation of the land and preservation of many important species.All too often we focus on the differences between “our group” and another, but these individuals began to focus on common ground. They were able to establish that everyone wanted to preserve wide open spaces both to preserve the ecological richness, cultural legacies, and ranching communities.
Through these efforts networks of collaboration were established, which linked people and the landscape.In the past 5 years there has been growing concern about undocumented immigration and increased smuggling on these same lands. How did these communities cope? Were the collaborations able to withstand these new threats? What new rules, norms, and strategies were established?Cartels increasingly control the routes for immigration and smuggling. Using threats of violence, these cartels force undocumented immigrants to cross into the USA with at typically armed “guide”, called a coyote. Long-time residents in our study talked about how this more recent phenomena was quite different than “momand pop” immigration that occurred since the time Gadsen Purchase when this part of Arizona became part of the United States.Environmentalists, ranchers, and community members expressed fear and frustration with the cartels that have higher powered weaponry and are increasinglybrazen in their crosses in the desert.Although crime through Arizona has generally dropped in recent decades, there was growing concern about the drug and human smuggling.Additionally with the USA’s economic decline immigration through AZ has sloweddramatically.But, the concerns of the residents intensified after a well-known rancher was shot probably after encountering drug smugglers.In addition there are grave concerns about both the environmental impact of the trash that immigrants and smugglers leave behind. And the impacts of constructionof the fence and border road that runs along the fence. One rancher talked about her frustration with the construction of fences in the washes of the range, which frequently flooded. These fences then shifted and moved during a flood only to be rebuilt again at great expense both of taxpayer dollars and environmental impacts.Interestingly, the ranchers, residents, and environmentalists in this region did not generally support the immigration reform that was being pushed at Arizona’s statehouse. Instead they spoke about how we need more comprehensive reform and a means for immigrants to enter legally (not through the dangerous desert).