Portal, AZ - Rodeo, NM

Serving The Communities Of Portal and Rodeo  (www.portal-rodeo.com)

Chiricahua Regional Council

Our Stewardship Program has been one of our greatest successes. We value our collaborations in this area, including those with Wild Arizona, Friends of Cave Creek Canyon, and the US Forest Service. In 2022, we were honored to receive a certificate of appreciation for our work in the Chiricahuas.

This is a CRC update regarding issues that affect intact habitats in the Chiricahua, Peloncillo, and surrounding areas.


The 30-day window to comment on the Forest Service’s draft environmental assessment for their proposed Peloncillo Firescape Project closes March 15.

The Chiricahua Regional Council (CRC) recognizes the need for public land managers to address the threats posed by wildland fire. In our age of climate change, this has grown in importance.  Although the CRC agrees in general with the proposed plan, we feel that there are inadequate protections given to the Peloncillo Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA) within the project area.  This area should be afforded a similar level of preservation as the Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) that are currently being excluded from mechanical treatment.  Although hand thinning could be an acceptable tool to use in the IRA, the presence of larger mechanized equipment needed for mastication operations should not be allowed in the IRA. 

We ask members to write comments urging the forest service to protect the integrity of the roadless area and refrain from using heavy mechanized methods to thin vegetation within it. You can submit your comments here. 


The CRC Stewardship program is partnering with Sky Island Alliance to monitor springs and other water sources in the Chiricahua and Peloncillo region. Through SIA’s Spring Seeker project, anyone with a smartphone can participate. The data gathered is uploaded to the Spring Stewardship Institute of Northern Arizona University and will contribute to the protection of these critical resources. Visit here for more information.


The Chiricahua Regional Council will be supporting the Outdoor Equity Fund created by Wild Arizona. This program is designed to engage and enlist indigenous youth and provide pathways to employment in conservation and stewardship projects on public land. Here in the Chiricahua region, the Youth Conservation Corps is one such pathway. This annual 6-week program will focus on the Rucker Canyon area again in 2024. Wild Arizona's Nizhoni Baldwin has begun reaching out to schools on Native American lands. 


CRC Stewardship is participating in the removal of non-native Dallis grass in Cave Creek Canyon. We assisted in securing funding for the project and are currently acting to coordinate the activities of Wild Arizona's non-native invasive species team, the Forest Service, the Southwestern Research Station, and local volunteers. 


As an environmental group pledged to protect intact habitats and natural resources, CRC acknowledges that groundwater pumping for industrial scale agriculture and mining poses very real threats to underground aquifers and the health of riparian habitats. Wildlife and human communities depend on reliable water resources. Aquifers are being over exploited in many parts of the state but particularly in the Sulphur Springs Valley. The San Simon Sub-basin is seeing more large-scale agricultural development every year. Groundwater is a finite resource. Once it's gone it will take millennia to recover. This is a complex issue and any solutions, when created, will be through state and county level political and legal processes that are largely beyond the capacity and resources of the Chiricahua Regional Council. Fortunately, there are several competent organizations that are working diligently on the groundwater problem in Arizona.

CRC urges our membership to support the efforts of those specifically working to ensure a safe water future for our area and beyond. For more information or to join that effort, here are two organizations to contact: 

Water for Arizona – a statewide coalition supported by Environmental Defense Action Fund, Audubon, American Rivers, and others.  

Cochise Groundwater Stewards – a citizen’s organization in the Sulphur Springs Valley fighting to strengthen groundwater protections.

For high quality, in-depth investigative reporting on water resources and groundwater depletion in Arizona, including several focused on articles about Cochise County, see the stories by Ian James of the Arizona Republic. 

Additional non-advocacy resources with reliable facts about groundwater in Arizona include: 

The University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center, especially their county Factsheets.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources, especially their overview of the 1980 AZ Groundwater Management Act and their detailed 2023 reports on water supply and demand in the Douglas and Willcox areas.

CRC pledges to advocate for sensible water policy when appropriate and to inform membership as developments occur.

If you have questions or comments about other priorities you’d like to see CRC follow up on, please let us know.


Chiricahua Regional Council

PO Box 16480

Portal, AZ 85632

Visit us on the web, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

CRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; your donations to our work are tax deductible.


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Chiricahua Regional Council

The CRC works on issues affecting the Chiricahua and Peloncillo region and focuses on maintaining healthy, intact habitats. We disseminate information about potential threats to the region, as those threats arise. We advocate careful land stewardship and seek to educate the public, as needed, on any aspect of natural history, conservation and land use, including sound grazing practices. Diverse interests from the community––from biologists to ranchers––are represented on our Board of Directors.


President: Dirk Sigler

Vice President: Curt Bradley
Secretary: Elly van Gelderen

Treasurer: Eskild Petersen

Wynne Brown

Philip Hedrick

David Hodges

Noel Snyder

Helen Snyder

Advisory Council

Amy Amoroso

Josiah Austin

Jim Downer

Diana Hadley

Paul Hirt

Michelle Lanan

Gregg Magee

Narca Moore-Craig

Jonathan Patt

Kim Vacariu

Alice Wakefield

Richard Webster


A 2-year membership costs $20. When issues arise affecting the Chiricahua-Peloncillo-Dragoon region, we inform our membership of the problem and recommend actions to remedy the situation. These notices come at irregular (and, thankfully, infrequent) intervals––however, when action has been needed, our members have risen to the challenge, and have been very effective at protecting the local biological and cultural values.


For information, email us at chiricahuaregionalcouncil@gmail.com.

Chiricahua Regional Council

PO Box 16480

Portal AZ 85632


As always, we welcome hearing your questions, comments, and suggestions. Please feel free to forward this update on our activities to friends and colleagues. We are continuing to work on increasing our membership, and anything you can do to help is appreciated. We value your support!


Chiricahua Regional Council
PO Box 16480
Portal, AZ 85632



The Council is a citizens’ watchdog group that monitors public agency actions and other issues affecting the Chiricahua, Peloncillo and Dragoon Mountains and nearby areas of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and adjacent northern Mexico.

We protect valuable, intact habitats and champion the region’s natural and cultural integrity. Dark skies, open space, outstanding species diversity, corridors that link habitats, our ranching heritage––all of these values make our region what it is. Together, these treasures draw tens of thousands of visitors annually, all contributing to nature tourism, which underpins our regional economy.

The CRC promotes responsible land use and wise, science-informed stewardship of our unique natural heritage. Our broad constituency includes scientists, ranchers, birders, naturalists, astronomers, artists, residents, visitors, and many others, who value our region’s spectacular qualities.

A major strength of the organization lies in its broad constituency. Our membership includes biologists, ranchers, birders, residents, visitors, and other segments of the general public with a strong interest in the region’s well-being. 



Coronado Forest Plan Under Major Criticism

by Noel Snyder

Every national forest operates under a forest plan that presents goals and actions to achieve goals.  These plans are periodically revised.  In March, the U.S. Forest Service released for public comment a Draft Forest Plan for future management of the Coronado National Forest.  This is a plan to replace the existing plan of 1986 and is expected to guide policies for the next 20 years.  Unfortunately, the new plan is limited largely to broad “feel-good” goals.  And because specific actions and their associated costs are mostly not presented, it isn’t possible to evaluate whether the goals are achievable, whether appropriate means will be employed to achieve goals, and how the Forest Service will resolve conflicts among goals.  In view of the major budgetary cuts the Forest Service has already experienced and can anticipate, it seems highly unlikely that adequate resources will exist to achieve many of the goals mentioned.  If adequate resources are not available which goals will be sacrificed?  In essence, the Forest Service seems to be asking the public to endorse its future actions without letting the public know what those actions may be.  

For those familiar with the detail of the 1986 Coronado plan, the newly released plan is astonishingly vague and leaves many matters only minimally addressed or simply unaddressed.  For example, missing from the plan is any discussion of border problems or how the the Forest Service is planning to address problems anticipated from climate change.  Areas of the Coronado close to the border have been under siege from illegal immigrants, who have trampled “highways” across the terrain, left mountains of trash, and repeatedly started major fires that have cost the taxpayer many millions of dollars.  Many of the trails on the Coronado are now effectively “owned” by well-armed drug smugglers, at least at night.  Yet the new plan says nothing about these problems and how they will be corrected.   If left uncorrected, these problems will undermine many other aspects of the plan.

Nevertheless, the aspect of the new plan that is by far the most troubling is the absence of any clear recognition of the overriding importance of what many observers maintain is the defining attribute of the Coronado – its tremendously high level of biodiversity.  This biodiversity is unmatched by any other national forest and has been honored nationally and internationally.  Protecting biodiversity is an overall national priority, and it is the Coronado’s outstanding biodiversity that supports a thriving ecotourism economy for many local communities.  Biodiversity is in fact the economic life blood of the region. This value should be featured in the plan as a central focus around which other goals need to be harmonized.  It is not.

Concerns over the Coronado’s biodiversity came into national focus in the 1990s when the Coronado Forest released a proposal to convert several of the Sky Island Units it administers into a National Recreation Area (NRA).  This was a proposal resulting not from public demand but from its potential to increase the Coronado’s budget. However, an NRA can only come to pass with public support and Congressional action.  In public meetings the proposal was blown away by vigorous and nearly unanimous opposition from people across the social and economic spectrum, who viewed conversion of the forest into a playground for mass recreation as a very bad idea.  What emerged instead was overwhelming public endorsement of low-impact quiet recreation on the forest consistent with maintaining the biological riches of the forest.  The NRA proposal was quietly dropped, but one wonders if anyone on the current planning staff of the Coronado remembers this embarrassing affair.  In the current draft plan, recreation development is mentioned 226 times while biodiversity is mentioned only 6 times.

To be fair, the Forest Service has belatedly announced it will be including a new Cave Creek Zoological and Botanical Area (ZBA) in its revisions to the draft plan, an area protecting a canyon with by far the highest density and diversity of nesting raptors known anywhere in the U.S.  But as welcome as the new ZBA is, the increased motorized recreation emphasis across the forest that is allowed in the new plan works directly against maintaining biodiversity values.  Under the existing forest plan, the Coronado already has far more roads than are permissible.  Biodiversity is not yet receiving the overall recognition and priority it deserves in the new plan.

In February the Forest Service expects to release a revised forest plan and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the plan.  It will be crucial for the public to respond with comments on these documents.