A Day in the Field

Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs

The Wilderness Society work in Arizona

Camera Mode? Set, three-burst. Flash? Set to 15 meters. Passive infra-red sensitivity? Set, high."

It's a beautiful Wednesday morning and Wilderness Society employees (us) are trailside configuring a remote camera for placement. We're in a canyon of the Gila Bend Mountains in west-central Arizona, and we've found wildlife sign and a palo verde tree with a good ground-level view of a thin ribbon of trail.

Mike Quigley and Desmond Johns, our staff based in Arizona, have been using field cameras to capture photos of the wildlife living in areas we have proposed for Wilderness designation. The images are inspiring and useful in our outreach work for the Sonoran Desert Heritage campaign (www.SonoranHeritage.org).

This morning we met with local supporters Roy and Ella. They're farmers and have been on this land for more than sixty years. During droughts and hard times, they see wildlife at the waters and in the fields by their house. As Ella says, each season Roy always "plants a little extra for the wildlife."

We're above Roy and Ella's place now--in a canyon that leads from the mountains to the Gila River. The sun is warm, there's a slight breeze, the late-winter light is soft, and there are wildflowers beginning to peek over stones along the hillside. We finish our tasks: double-checking the settings, reaching through thorns to secure the camera to the palo verde tree, completing our field notes.

As we start the hike out, we talk about life living life in a wild landscape we're working hard to protect. We look at the trail we're finding down the mountain and wonder aloud what wildlife will follow us, what will we see on the data card when we come back to check the camera? Javelina? Mountain lion? Ringtails? Bighorn sheep? The anticipation is exciting, the work is important, the day is good.