Four Wheel Campers Returns to Volunteer at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
After a successful volunteer event in 2022, Four Wheel Campers returned to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) last month for two days of volunteering and camping. Located an hour south of Tucson, Arizona in the Sonoran Desert, BANWR is cherished among wildlife watchers. The 118,000-acre refuge also has over 80 dispersed campsites, many of which offer mesmerizing views of the Baboquivari Mountains.
Friends of BANWR is a local nonprofit 501c3 that supports the refuge, which was established in the 1980s to provide critical habitat for the endangered masked bobwhite quail. In addition to hundreds of avian species, the refuge is also home to mule deer, pronghorn, javelina, coyotes and mountain lions. Four Wheel Campers previously worked with Friends of BANWR to install new campfire pits, build erosion zones and remove litter along the main road in the refuge. This year we focused solely on replacing the old boundary fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing in a known pronghorn corridor along Arizona State Route 286. Before it was acquired by USFWS in the 1980s, BANWR used to be a network of cattle ranches, so removing the old, rusted, barbed wire fencing is an ongoing task — and a top priority.
We split some duties with a team of volunteers from the Sierra Club, and we’re pleased to report that our collective efforts resulted in the installation of over two miles of wildlife-friendly fencing. Arizona Game and Fish released 30 pronghorn into the refuge in January 2023, effectively doubling the size of the resident herd, so our event couldn’t have come at a better time. Unlike deer, which often jump over fences, pronghorn prefer to scoot under fences, so it is imperative that the bottom layer of fencing has a smooth line, so as not to ensnare the animals. A few volunteers removed the top and bottom lines of barbed wire, while everyone else assisted with various stages of installation. We began with measurements and marking, and after running the new, smooth wires on the top and bottom, some volunteers adjusted the middle two lines of barbed wire, while others installed stays and clips. On our final day, some volunteers also assisted with clearing vegetation, to make way for other workers and fence coiling machines. Very few of us had experience with fence pliers, but it’s safe to say we became pros after our time in BANWR.
After logging around seven hours of work each day, our crew returned to camp for snacks and drinks, with a few hours of leisure time before we gathered by the campfire. The sprawling group campsite at BANWR has over 30 spots, a large veranda and a fire pit, making it an ideal spot for these gatherings. For a two-day event, Four Wheel Campers reserves camping for three nights, giving our volunteers the opportunity to explore the area, and next year we are hoping to include additional group activities (e.g., interpretive hikes, presentations) for those who are interested. Four Wheel Campers also supplied light bites for breakfast, plus snacks, beer and wine, and we prepared a taco dinner on our second night. These events are free, and even if you don’t have a truck camper, you are welcome to join. While our group size is generally limited to 15-25 volunteers, it’s an incredible way to connect with like-minded folks — and form a deeper connection to our beautiful public lands.
Thank you to everyone who attended our 2023 Arizona event, and to the dedicated folks at Friends of BANWR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Arizona Game and Fish. We look forward to seeing you again next spring!
Interested in attending our next volunteer event? We are working with Clean Up The Lake at Fallen Leaf Lake June 21-22, and we will provide camping and lunch for all volunteers. You can register for free tickets here, and check the Four Wheel Campers Events page and social media channels for more info on future volunteer events.
Elisabeth Brentano is a writer and photographer based in California, but her passion for nature takes her all over the world to produce travel and environmental content. You can follow her at @elisabethontheroad on Instagram. All photos courtesy of Elisabeth Brentano.
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