On April 1, 2017, CWP recognized one organization (the Empire Ranch Foundation) and two individuals (Gita Bodner and JJ Lamb) for their outstanding contributions to the Cienega Watershed. The Cienega Watershed Partnership founded the virtual Wall of Honor to recognize those who have contributed significantly over time in advancing the CWP mission of sustaining the Cienega Watershed. The service must be extraordinary both in time and diversity and it must be significant and long-term to the watershed. The new recipients join 17 other awardees on the Wall of Honor: view the full Wall of Honor.
The Empire Ranch Foundation was recognized for twenty years of work resulting in a lasting and beneficial impact to the historic Empire Ranch Headquarters and on the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Treasurer Gene Raymond represented ERF at the award ceremony. The Foundation has partnered, developed, funded, and supported in time and resources significant programs in 1) site protection, stabilization and restoration; 2) heritage education, exhibits and interpretation; 3) archival work including oral history, photographic, and other documentation; and, 4) public events, communication and opportunities for involvement. The Foundation has contributed over $525,000 to restore and maintain the Ranch House and the other seven buildings at the headquarters. The initial organization has grown from a Board of Directors to a membership and volunteer organization with over 420 members and over 250 volunteers and docents. The Foundation’s pubic outreach programs like the Roundup which reaches thousands of individuals and an active docent program are outstanding. Educational programs the “Legacy Day” field day of on-site ranching education for local school children have reached hundreds of students. The Foundation continues to connect the surrounding communities, organizations, residents, and stakeholders to the Empire Ranch.
JJ Lamb has been engaged over 20 years in preserving the community of Vail and its surrounding desert environment—she is simply unstoppable in efforts to preserve the essence and historic buildings of this community. Recognizing the small “Town Between the Tracks” was an incredible community but endangered, she embarked upon active campaigns to connect the community through local history. She established the Vail Preservation Society in 2006 whose mission is not just to preserve historic resources of the greater Vail area, but to connect these through a myriad of programs. These range from ’Tis the Season, Vail Meet Yourself and Main Street America to preservation projects like the restoring the Esmond Station School and saving the Old Vail Post Office. Preservation and education have gone hand in hand: the Vail School System partnering in the Esmond Station School restoration and student art for Colossal Cave Road. JJ single-handedly protected the Old Vail Post Office, Vail’s oldest structure, from disintegration and demolition. She wrote the National Register of Historic Places nominations for the 1908 Vail Store and Post Office and the Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert. In 2011, she was named an Arizona Culturekeeper, and that is a powerful statement of her work.
Gita Bodner has contributed as scientist, translator, youth mentor, collaborator, and partner, making positive impacts to programs, partners, and resources within the Cienega Watershed. In the last 12 years, Gita has focused on applied science at Las Cienegas NCA in many venues and collaborative efforts: the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership, the Science on the Sonoita Plain and State of the Watershed workshops to Biological Planning, Climate Change Scenario Planning, Youth Engaged Stewardship Program, and the Cienega Timeline Work Group. Dr. Bodner has been a driving force in implementing adaptive management strategies on the NCA. She has demonstrated the effective use of scientific ecological monitoring data in informing management decisions relating to grazing management, grassland restoration and wetland restoration among others. Gita determined whether monitoring protocols were robust enough to determine resource conditions trends, evaluated the results and informs BLM and partners. She constantly translates science for her colleagues, partners, stakeholders and youth leaders and scientists; she is always seeking ways to keep agency managers informed on the important work that we collectively engage in within the Cienega Watershed. She challenges us with thoughtful questions and comments on ongoing work, generating new ideas and innovative practices across the watershed.
Header photo: JJ Lamb, Gene Raymond of the Empire Ranch Foundation, and Gita Bodner. The plaque was designed by Dennis Caldwell to represent the Cienega Watershed. Photo by Tahnee Robertson.