Stewarding the natural and cultural resources of the Cienega Watershed of Southeastern Arizona.

Wall of Honor

Every year at the Cienega Watershed Partnership Annual Meeting, CWP honors those who have contributed significantly over time in advancing the mission of the CWP, its public forums, and the Cienega Watershed. The service must be extraordinary both in time and diversity and it must be significant and long term. Nominate someone for the Wall of Honor.

2023 Wall of Honor Inductees

Thomas Meixner (1970-2022)

Tom Meixner was a passionate engine of wisdom for the Watershed. His boundless energy, expertise, and leadership kept CWP going and pushed it further in directions that it needed to go. He touched every facet of the organization from ensuring that CWP participated in fundraising programs like Giving Tuesday to continuing CWP’s Wall of Honor to recognize contributions to the watershed.

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Tom was already a busy University of Arizona hydrologist when he joined the CWP Board, first as an active member and then as Chair in 2018. While he provided expertise on issues pertinent to his field like the Rosemont Mine, erosion and managing Arizona waters, Tom’s energy, vision and leadership resulted in new and exciting CWP public programs in the watershed. He wanted to work in a local watershed which mattered to people and the Cienega Watershed benefitted from his efforts some of which are being completed posthumously in 2023. Tom contributed to on-the-ground projects like habitat restoration and the FROG Project but his vision and drive helped to re-energize programs like the State of the Watershed and to add new approaches like Discover the Land. Tom, a passionate engine of wisdom, boundless energy, expertise and leadership, kept CWP going but pushed it further in directions that it still needs to go. He touched every facet of the organization.


For over a decade, Larry has made a difference in the Cienega Watershed and in how sustainability of important desert ecosystems can be approached for longer-term adaptive management using a collaborative framework.

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Larry is attached to a number of significant efforts which combine the best and latest science with engagement of stakeholders to ensure good decisions: Science on the Sonoita Plain, State of the Watershed and the Assessment Project, Climate Change Scenario Planning, and Biological Planning. Yet he has also contributed to major efforts to educate and engage the general public through programs like watershed tours, Discover the Land, and most especially, the Cienega Watershed Virtual Tour released in 2023. He has brought in major partners to aid this work and published results to aid other watershed management and assessment programs. Larry served nine years on the CWP Board of Directors (until 2022) but continues to “volunteer” for CWP and the watershed.

Gayle has worked tirelessly to preserve the Santa Rita Mountains for over 20 years through the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR) organization.

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Gayle’s leadership on the SSSR Board of Directors has been essential in opposing mining in the Santa Ritas which would cause devastating impacts to watersheds both east and west of the mountain. Gayle saw a tremendous need to “organize to protect’ forming a coalition with other groups with similar missions. She has coordinated to ensure a united front to protect this special environment with its significant scenic, aesthetic, recreational, wildlife and other values. She and SSSR volunteers provided clear impact messages and clarified the process of commenting and appeals necessary to stop short-term and longer mining impacts. Gayle has earned the respect of local environmental groups, tribal leaders and the community members of Pima and Santa Cruz Counties. With the potential expansion of mining into the Patagonia Mountains, Canelo Hills and the San Rafael Valley,  her efforts have shown how and when to engage to ensure public voices are heard by decision-makers.

Chris ‘s major contribution to the Cienega Watershed has been her long-term efforts in youth leadership and environmental education programs, most notably how to effect restoration of desert habitats through youth efforts.

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Her activities have ranged from bringing Vail High School classes for years to Las Cienegas to provide hands-on education to the very special Youth Engaged Stewardship (YES!) a 7-year program for teens from multiple Tucson Basin schools.  A major YES! outcome was to develop youth skills in leadership, critical thinking, communication and decision-making in restoration contexts. Between 2016 and 2018, 229 students, interns, parents, volunteers, and scientists participated in (over 5,536 hours) of cost-effective projects. YES! proved that low-cost restoration work with native plants, local materials, and volunteer labor is a good investment which produces results. Chris also served on the CWP Board of Directors (2014 – 2020) in several capacities including project manager for the FROG Project and YES!, as Treasurer in 2019, and providing outreach programs for teacher workshops and the general public.

We have been enriched through Mead’s skills and inspiration which positively impacts her neighborhood, Tucson, and local watersheds.

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Mead took on monitoring of the creek at Pima Association of Governments in 2006 and she spent 10 years enthusiastically volunteering for the CWP board in her personal time (until 2019). Mead’s roles as a connector, scientist, environmentalist, volunteer, and humanist have contributed to the sustainability of Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon. This included supporting CWP -from grant management and water quality regulation tracking to building partnerships with Pima County departments and UArizona.  Her leadership, energy, and dedication resulted in some of the highest turnouts for CWP tours, annual celebrations, social media campaigns, and fundraising at the time. Wearing her eco-hydrology hat, Mead led CWP teams to combat erosion and protect native species. She was a long-time promoter of shallow groundwater ecosystem sustainability and green stormwater infrastructure for natural areas, coordinating the development of well inventories, place-based guidance, and early trainings to grow local practitioners. Employing her personal passion and outreach experience, she initiated a new approach for CWP by directing activities to encourage personal relationships with the creek ranging from living on the land theme to events with youth art, photography, and poetry. In her work at PAG she led efforts to apply science to decision-making through the adoption of Regional Council resolutions to preserve the heritage of desert creeks. She continues to keep Cienega issues in water planning dialogs across the state as well as to contribute to the CWP Health of the Watershed and Assessment Project. She is our GOAT for Cienega Creek since her data communications provide an essential understanding of hydrologic trends and dynamics.

Meet the past Cienega Watershed Partnership inductees onto the Wall of Honor:


Gita Bodner has contributed as scientist, translator, youth mentor, collaborator, and partner—making positive impacts to programs, partners, and resources within the Cienega Watershed.

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Gita has focused on applied science 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. Gita and colleagues at The Nature Conservancy began partnering with the Bureau of Land Management Tucson Field Office, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area staff in 2004 to develop and implement a robust ecological monitoring program for the NCA that was tied directly to the resource objectives in the Resource Management Plan. Gita has been a driving force in implementing adaptive management strategies on the Las Cienegas NCA. She has demonstrated the effective use of scientific monitoring data in informing management decisions relating to grazing management, grassland restoration and wetland restoration among others. Gita and colleagues continue to test whether monitoring protocols are robust enough to determine resource conditions trends; evaluate results; and inform BLM and partners. Working with TNC Volunteer Program Coordinator and other partners, Gita has recruited a variety of volunteers to assist with monitoring upland conditions, vegetation treatment effects, and perennial creek miles. She has participated in a wide variety of educational meetings, field visits, conferences, and forums that inform participants about adaptive management processes on Las Cienegas NCA. In her scientist role, Gita mentors students in the YES! program at the Gardner Sacaton restoration site where students discover how to help sites like this support healthy aquifers and prevent erosion of fragile soils. She aids students in designing study plots, monitoring grids and experiments in designing erosion control features.

Alison Bunting has applied her professional skills and personal interests in developing programs which now define the Cienega Watershed Partnership’s (CWP) heritage mission.

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She became the mainstay of the CWP oral history program. She worked to obtain funding and training for a wider audience, ensured that the Bureau of Land Management and Coronado National Forest recorded histories were inventoried and transcribed, and was instrumental in setting up the Arizona Memory Project Voices on the Cienega project. The Back Then Internship Program exists because Alison was willing to supervise summer intern training and development in oral history. Alison is a critical member of the Cienega Timeline Project providing citation standards, a reference process, and contributing significantly to local history events on the timeline. She has been a functioning member of the BLM Las Cienegas National Conservation Area’s Heritage Technical Team since its inception. Alison has made significant and numerous contributions to the Empire Ranch Foundation’s mission: Board President (2007-2009), Newsletter Editor, Archives Manager, and Advisory Board. And she developed the Docent Program, ensuring that their training included the historical, biological and ecological aspects of the Empire Ranch Headquarters and the Las Cienegas NCA. Without Alison’s contributions, our level of understanding and access to the watershed history would be reduced and meaningful legacy programs would be less developed. Alison has volunteered hundreds of hours of her professional skills and considerable knowledge. She has become a resource for others who want to engage in history because she integrates multiple efforts and information of the area history, its people, locations, and records. For the Empire Ranch Foundation, she has ensured that records, images, recordings, and the foundation for watershed history are preserved but available. Both the Cienega Watershed Partnership and the Empire Ranch Foundation have benefited from her many roles as noted in multiple awards.

Dennis Caldwell has a passion for natural history in general and frogs and other herpetofauna in particular, which has led to significant contributions to on-the-ground scientific investigations, educational outreach activities, and restoration actions.

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Dennis has spent thousands of hours on the ground, getting to know the watershed and its local land owners. His knowledge and cheerful and open manner make him a key contact for land managers and local residents alike. He was the first to report the natural expansion of Gila topminnow and Gila chub to the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve, and has greatly expanded our understanding of the condition and character of habitat for native frogs in the watershed. Dennis alerted cultural resource experts to a number of new archeological and historical sites needing protection or recovery. His passion benefited a numerous and diverse group of organizations: the Cienega Watershed Partnership (CWP), the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership, and the Cienega Corridor Conservation Council, the Arizona Native Plant Society, Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the Tucson Herpetological Society, Sky Island Alliance, Empire Fagan Coalition, The Rincon Institute, the Vail School District, the Pima Association of Governments, the University of Arizona, Bureau of Land Management and Coronado National Forest. As an artist and graphic designer, Dennis has donated art to CWP’s benefit, and he has contributed beautifully illustrated graphics to a wide range of activities in the Sonoita Watershed, most recently regarding invasive aquatic species. The work that he and co-investigators did with the FROG project led to a significant reduction in the American bullfrog’s range in the Cienega watershed thus opening up habitat for a range of native aquatic vertebrates. As a result, the Chiricahua leopard frog is now common in upper Cienega Creek, and has been successfully reestablished at other sites in the Cienega Watershed. An effective communicator, Dennis’ outreach with rural land owners and ranchers has been enormously successful in advance native frog conservation efforts. Dennis has been instrumental in getting youth projects on the ground through his work with classrooms, with field experiences, and by mentoring the Youth Engaged Stewardship program. He is a willing, valuable and effective spokesman on issues for the media like the Davidson Canyon Outstanding Waters designation, impacts to species from projects, and positive youth impacts. Dennis was nominated in 2015.


Resident and landowner along Davidson Canyon and actively involved in the barrel racing and horse training world for many years, Charlotte Cook is familiar with the concerns of ranchers as well as environmentalists.

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Charlotte is passionate about protection of the Cienega Watershed, and is a dedicated steward in the region. She was actively involved in obtaining the ADEQ designation of “Outstanding Water” for a section of the Davidson Canyon and she was also instrumental in Pima County Flood Control re-mapping of an Important Riparian Area along the Davidson Canyon in order to include additional resources. Charlotte embodies the importance of citizen science and on-the-ground volunteerism. She volunteers with the Empire Fagan Coalition, where she has held numerous positions in the organization. It’s been said that there were times when she almost single-handedly kept it going. She also volunteers with the Vail Preservation Society conducting genealogical research for the greater Vail area, is a volunteer tracker in the Sky Island Alliance wildlife linkages program, and has provided volunteer office support to the Center for Biological Diversity. She is part of a partnership effort to maintain the Arizona National Trail Segment from the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead to Sahuarita Road. Charlotte was recognized in 2013.


Born in Philadelphia, 13-year-old John Donaldson first came to Tucson to attend the Arizona Desert School, a ranch school for boys.

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It was an experience that influenced the course of his life. After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he graduated from the University of Arizona, specializing in agriculture and range management. His ranching career began with the lease of the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson. Over the years, he owned ranches in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1975, when Anamax Mining Corporation purchased the Empire Ranch, they consulted with John and subsequently entered into a lease agreement with him to manage ranching operations. After the BLM acquired the Empire Ranch in 1988, they asked John and his son Mac to continue ranching at the Empire under a grazing lease, which they did for the next 20 years, thus continuing the legacy of care for the land that is the backbone of the Cienega Watershed.

For over 20 years, Doug Duncan has contributed to the Cienega Watershed, the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, (LCNCA) and to the Cienega Watershed Partnership (CWP).

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Beginning with the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership in 1995 representing the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), he has collaborated with the BLM and a variety of stakeholders to produce significant, strategic plans and projects. He was instrumental in the 2003 Las Cienegas Resource Management Plan and helped to implement strategies and programs which contribute to the ecological health and long-term sustainability of the watershed. Doug enabled this work through his intimate working relationships with researchers, agencies and non-profit organizations operating within the watershed as well as cross-watershed activities. His experience, on the ground, with the natural systems as well as his working knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region has greatly aided in keeping regulatory decisions grounded. As a riparian and native fish specialist for the FWS, Doug has gone above and beyond working with: the SVPP, Cienega Corridor Conservation Council, CWP, LCNCA Biological Planning, the LCNCA Riparian Resource Technical Team, other technical teams and workgroups, and with the State of the Watershed, Science on the Sonoita Plain and the Cienega Timeline Project. Doug is dedicated to animals and their habitats but works with people in all kinds of settings to ensure their continuance in the watershed and elsewhere. Even during furloughs, Doug participated; after he was no longer the FWS lead biologist, he continued to be involved. As a biologist he probably would rather be dip-netting Gila chub in a creek or taking field notes under the shade of a giant cottonwood tree. Biologists are usually more interested in working with animals than with people—but Doug has taken his dedication beyond animal interactions to making lasting change on the socio-political levels which will have the lasting impact on accomplishing his obligations to protect Threatened and Endangered Species and their habitats.


Through their Southeastern Arizona Grasslands Pronghorn Initiative, the Arizona Antelope Foundation (AAF) has significantly contributed to the stewardship of native wildlife on the Cienega Watershed.

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The success will benefit a multitude of grassland species resulting in increased ecological health and potential for long-term sustainable use for generations. Where in 2012 only seventeen pronghorn were surveyed on the Sonoita plains, in July of 2019 two hundred seventy four pronghorn were surveyed. Other partners and projects were involved, such as a 2014 translocation of 23 pronghorn from New Mexico to the Sonoita-Elgin area led by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, but even then volunteers from the AAF were working alongside the rest. The success of this translocation was greatly aided by the modification of over 65 miles of fences and improved habitat across the 45,000 acres of the Sonoita plains.

In 1997, private citizens formed the Empire Ranch Foundation with the mission to protect, restore, and sustain the Empire Ranch historical buildings and landscape as an outstanding western heritage education center.

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The ERF accomplishments provide a lasting and beneficial impact on the Empire Ranch Headquarters and on the Bureau of Land Management’s Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Too many individuals have contributed through ERF to recognize individuals effectively. Many members, officers, boards of directors, and volunteers have served the organization and the community over the years adding their skills, experiences, and commitments of hundreds of hours. The ERF 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 like the Legacy Day field day of on-site ranching education for local school children have reached hundreds of students.

Julia Fonseca has been with Pima County since the mid-1980s and soon became the first manager of the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve, where she undertook a lengthy nomination and designation process for Cienega Creek to be named an ADEQ Unique Water of Arizona, the state’s highest level of surface water quality protection.

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She directed monitoring programs of surface water and groundwater, a program that continues to this day and which is providing much-needed information on this important resource. Julia helped develop the first management plan for the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve in 1994. As the staff lead for Pima County’s Science Technical Advisory Team, she played a key role in the development of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Her work led to the development of the County’s Conservation Lands System that has brought added protection to the Cienega basin by way of development set-asides, and a focus on rare and endangered species and ecosystem elements. This ultimately led to the purchase and lease of open space within the watershed and highlighted the importance of the Cienega Creek basin. Julia now serves as Environmental Planning Manager with Pima County’s Office of Conservation Science and Environmental Policy, which oversees implementation of the Conservation Lands System and development of the County’s Multispecies Habitat Conservation Plan. In the last few years, she has coordinated the County’s response to the Rosemont mine proposal, which is one of the biggest threats ever to threaten the natural resources of the Cienega basin. In addition to her more publicized record of conservation activities, Julia’s friendly nature and quiet persistence on behalf of the resource are a source of inspiration to her colleagues and all those who share her conservation ethic and purpose. Julia was recognized in 2014.


Dave Hall is a committed field scientist who has spent years in the Cienega Watershed and neighboring areas engaged in the study of amphibians, especially the Chiricahua Leopard Frog.

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His thousands of hours (day and night) led to our understanding of frog populations, their threats, and especially, how to sustain them. As a key member and lead on the FROG Project, David mentored many young scientists in fieldwork to remove the American bullfrogs from the watershed and in a myriad of research activities supporting the repopulation of the Chiricahua Leopard Frog. Through this work David has collaborated with land managers, ranchers, wildlife managers and private property owners to accomplish his conservation goals, significantly contributing to the CWP “partnerships”.

For decades, Neal and Diane Hanna have shared their great knowledge of the area and provided care to the resources of the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve.

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They have related their landscape experiences with successive generations of resource staffs leading to a deeper understanding of the dynamics of Cienega Creek. The Hanna’s are long-time supporters of the watershed and its partners’ efforts and have contributed much to the creek and community. Long before the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve was created, they were ranch caretakers for the Empirita Ranch, raising their family along the Creek and getting to know it intimately. They have served as caretakers for the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve for several decades, maintaining the fences and monitoring activities for Pima County.

Linda Kennedy has supported good, applicable science, ensuring that young scientists receive the support and mentoring to initiate research.

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A botanist and plant ecologist, Linda is known for her expertise in plant identification but she has also planted seeds in many directions–especially in mentoring students and young researchers at the Research Ranch. She has seen to the students’ basic arrangements while challenging their research interests. Over the years, it is estimated that Linda has worked with over 70 university student researchers and countless more middle school, high school, and other college students. Linda has partnered with Partnership on the Science on the Sonoita Plain Symposium for ten years and is a founding member of the SOSP planning and implementing team and a driving force behind the success of the annual event. As director of the Research Ranch, she has supported the symposium by providing the location, planning field trips, ensuring the proceedings are prepared, and soliciting oral and poster presentations. Linda has been host, planning committee member, moderator, speaker, and oversaw production of the last two proceedings. Linda also participates in local community groups like the Sonoita-Elgin Fire Department.




Rancher, environmentalist, and large-than-life figure, Jake Kittle knew everybody and everybody knew him.

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Jake was born in San Francisco and raised in Marin County, CA. He attended college at Yale in 1949, but transferred to the U of A, where he received a degree in animal husbandry. Over the years, he owned and operated the Muleshoe Ranch north of Benson, as well as ranches in Wyoming, California, and Show Low, Arizona. After living in Jackson, Wyoming, for a number of years, Jake returned to Arizona with his dogs and chickens, first to Sonoita and then to a house on a hill in Patagonia. Jake served on the board of the Sonoran Institute, and was actively involved with the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association, Sonoita Crossroads Forum, and Southeast Arizona Land Trust. He helped establish the Empire Ranch Foundation, and was instrumental in the formation of the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership and an active participant in its early work, creating Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.

JJ Lamb is a community advocate, founder, practicing historic preservationist, educator, and always a visionary for the future of Vail, Arizona.

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For more than 20 years, JJ has dedicated herself to bettering her communities – from the town of Vail to the Cienega watershed to the state of Arizona – through education and historic preservation. In 2011, she was named an Arizona Culturekeeper, a powerful statement of her work. JJ, a Tucson native, has been lovingly connected with Vail and the surrounding region since she was a teenager, when her grandparents built a house on Hilton Ranch Road in the Empire Mountains, and she and her family came out on weekends to help. After her husband retired in 1996, Vail was where they wanted to make their home. She recognized how swiftly Vail was changing from the small “Town Between the Tracks” where everyone knew one another, to a Tucson bedroom community, and the impact that was having not only on the community but on Vail’s beautiful and valuable desert surroundings. She embarked upon active campaigns to connect the community through local history. She and Elizabeth Webb established the Vail Preservation Society in 2006, with a mission not just to preserve historic resources of the greater Vail area, but to connect these through a myriad of programs: Voices of Vail oral histories and documentary; outdoor and traveling exhibits; civic events like ’Tis the Season, Vail Meet Yourself, and Main Street America; and stabilization of the Old Vail Post Office. Preservation and education have gone hand in hand: the Vail School System partnering in the 1915 Section Foreman House rehabilitation at Esmond Station School, public art for Colossal Cave Road, and the rehabilitation of the Old Vail Post Office. JJ brought together partners to protect the Old Vail Post Office, Vail’s oldest structure, from demolition, protecting it until its rehabilitation can begin. She wrote the National Register of Historic Places nominations for the 1908 Vail Store and Post Office and the 1935 Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert.


Born and raised in eastern South Dakota, Joe Maierhauser volunteered to serve in the Navy during World War II right out of high school.

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After his service, he attended the University of South Dakota and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. In 1956, Joe came to Arizona to take over the operation of then 495-acre Colossal Cave Park. This was the first such arrangement in the country, where a private individual administered an entire park as operator, not concessionaire. In 1987 he joined with three others to found and incorporate the Pima County Parklands Foundation, whose mission is to protect and enhance the parks of Pima County, Arizona. He served on the Board for several years, and remained Director Emeritus until his death. In 2005, the Maierhausers were given the Sonoran Institute’s Faces of Conservation Cele Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award. Joe’s enduring legacy is 51 years of preservation and protection of Colossal Cave Mountain Park. During his tenure, the Park was expanded from its original 495 acres to over 2,000 acres, and was named a National Historic District. Today, Colossal Cave Mountain Park is the cornerstone of the Cienega Corridor region east of Tucson, and an important link in the Cienega Watershed.


Martie Maierhauser has contributed to the success of the Cienega Watershed Partnership (CWP) since its inception and for the many years since. She is a founding member of the 4Cs and the CWP and the only Board Chair that CWP has elected.

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As Chair of a new nonprofit organization, Martie put her skills and experience to work from drafting bylaws and legally required instruments to building a Board of Directors and setting in motion the key ingredients in an environmental non-profit. As the roles of CWP changed and expanded, Martie oversaw the development of a Strategic Plan (2009) and its implementation and helped the CWP find its niche in bringing together partners to resolve issues and move ahead. Martie aided the development of committees and work groups, suffered through growing pains to administer a large grant and multiple smaller ones, and worked with the Board to contract positions and initiate programs and workshops. She especially pushed The Cienega Outlook, CWP’s electronic newsletter and served as the CWP “editor”. Martie is a passionate and committed individual engaged in preserving the Cienega watershed and its resources. Since 1962, she has spent over fifty years living in and learning about Colossal Cave Mountain Park, the Cienega Corridor and the Cienega Watershed. She has represented the watershed innumerable ways pushing against the Rosemont Mine, supporting programs like native species protection, oral history and youth stewardship, entering into dialogue with other agencies and groups, and advocating for preserving values and responsible development in Vail. Martie and her husband, Joe, to protect as much of the region as possible, took the 495-acre Colossal Cave Park to today’s 2,400-acre Colossal Cave Mountain Park, a National Historic District. In 2005, they were awarded the Sonoran Institute’s Faces of Conservation Cele Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, Martie received the Historic Preservation Award from the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation. In her 2012 oral history recorded for CWP, Martie’s story– from a coin toss to initiate her visit to the area to the long-time Director of CCMP— illustrates how important preserving this area is to her and how her actions aided its sustainability. Martie was nominated in 2015.

Shela’s vision, energy, and love of the watershed make everything possible. She is a master of collaboration, considering individual or organizational differences, yet keeping us focused on and moving towards the end goal.

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Her expertise and knowledge of all aspects of the watershed (biological, cultural, recreational) are invaluable, as are her extensive contacts with watershed experts (scientists, ranchers, community leaders). She facilitates multiple watershed teams and is adept at solving problems. With her almost 30 years working for the federal government as archaeologist, museum director and BLM manager, Shela has brought significant insight and knowledge that has aided CWP navigate the complicated world of grants, programs, laws, policies and politics.

Dan Robinett has worked with ranchers and land managers as a trusted expert to find acceptable grazing plans that are sustainable and economically viable for ranchers.

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Dan began in the Sonoita Valley at the Empire Ranch in the mid-1970s while working with the Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Dan has spent his career and life working to better the landscapes that he comes in contact with. He has worked with two separate ranchers on the Empire Ranch in both a private capacity and while with NRCS. He has a great feeling for the balance of the landscape and the ability to continue uses on it in a sustainable fashion. Because of his long tenure on the landscape, there is nobody better to speak about the changes and effects of drought, fire, cattle, and wet periods have had on the land. Dan has also been engaged as a scientist and advisor on vegetation management issues directly addressing these concerns in the Cienega Watershed and adjacent lands. His measuring, monitoring, reporting and educating others has been especially important for the questions raised as early as 1995: What is the effect of livestock grazing on the ecosystem and can the use occur while maintaining and improving the vegetation resources? By 1999, Dan was a member of the grazing subgroup working on livestock alternatives, adopting standards and guidelines for range sites, and looking at variable stocking rates and flexible grazing schedules. Dan has both depth and breadth in landscape topics. Looking at projects from 1996 to 2006 for the Soil Conservation Service or Natural Resources Conservation Service, Dan’s name appears regularly in publications and in presentations–including the 2009 Babocomari River protection paper for the Science and Sonoita Plain.



Phil Rosen was tireless in his efforts to understand and protect the ecological values of the Cienega watershed for years. He worked with Pima County on developing aquatic vertebrate conservation approaches for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and documented Sonoran desert tortoise status in the Vail region.

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Rosen was one of the first scientists to sound the alert about the amphibian die-offs in southeastern Arizona, which eventually led to discovery of the chytrid fungus in the Cienega watershed and new measures to reduce disease transmission. He has generously shared his knowledge and data with a variety of conservation groups and agencies and worked to improve the conservation performance of projects and programs throughout Arizona and Sonora. Phil was known as a consummate natural historian and ecologist. His integrated conservation vision for aquatic systems, looking at the shared needs of native fish, frogs, and garter snakes, and putting those into terms that fit with human needs and capabilities, helped to avoid and resolve needless conflicts. He worked with schools, homeowners, ranchers, tribal members and other at scales ranging from backyards to entire watersheds. In recent decades, Phil focused much of his effort on the Cienega Valley, recently as a key member of the FROG project. This work led to the decline of American bullfrogs and led to significant opportunities for the conservation of native vertebrates, especially the Mexican garter snake and Chiricahua leopard frog. Phil worked tirelessly to document habitat requirements, distribution, and conservation needs of native herpetofauna throughout southern Arizona. He curated an invaluable database of current and historical records, which have helped to inform a number of conservation planning processes, including that for the Chiricahua and lowland leopard frogs in the Cienega Valley. Phil gave generously of his time to others in shared pursuit of research and educational activities. Phil’s contributions to our understanding of the natural history of southern Arizona herpetofauna and his willingness to share that information certainly advanced the missions of CWP, SVPP, and the CCCC. Phil was nominated in 2015.

David Scalero has made us all aware of how significant a resource the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve is to the watershed and the Vail community and has worked to preserve it.

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David has been a key figure in preserving the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve (CCNP), an active participant in the Cienega Corridor Conservation Council, a board member and officer of the Cienega Watershed Partnership, and a water scientist and manager for Cienega Creek. As primary manager for the Pima County Regional Flood Control District, he has been instrumental in providing direction to Parks and Recreation for the day-to-day management of the Preserve. David has also been the primary author of the Update to the CCNP Management Plan. He represented the Flood Control District and the Preserve on the Cienega Corridor Conservation Council when that forum was active. In addition, David has diligently collected and analyzed and shared over the last 20 years significant water resources data. He has also worked with the Pima Association of Governments to conduct many river walks to document the amount of perennial flow on a quarterly basis and measure flows at several sites. His recent efforts include a summary of annual water resources data for the CCNP. David was one of the authors of the Cienega Creek Groundwater Report (2015) which was part of the larger Pima County Cienega Creek Risk Assessment. The groundwater report covers the entire watershed and provides recommendations for improving the groundwater conditions for the basin which sustains the riparian corridor.


Mike was born and raised in New York City and fell in love with nature at summer camps in upstate New York. He obtained a degree in Philosophy with an emphasis on people’s relationship with and response to nature.

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Mike moved to Arizona in the early 1970s. He worked for the Humane Society and then spent 30 years at the Arizona Zoological Society and the Phoenix Zoo specializing in Arizona native ecologies. He later became the Zoo’s conservation officer. Even when not on the job, Mike was engaged with nature. He was active with the Grazing Clearinghouse and served on the board of directors of both the Arizona Wilderness Coalition and Sky Island Alliance. He was active with the Arizona Riparian Council and the Middle Gila Conservation Partnership. He engaged with BLM shortly after they acquired the Empire Ranch and spent the rest of his life working with the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership. Mike brought knowledge, integrity, and passion to the projects, discussions, and debate, never wavering in his belief that we should conduct our affairs in ways that are respectful of, and do no harm to, the natural system we are dependent upon.


Jeff is a fisheries biologist… in the desert, a place where he has to explain why we need a fisheries biologist. Nonetheless the watershed has fish and Jeff’s dedication and passion are reasons why native fish (and other aquatic species and habitats) have successful populations on the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.

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Jeff has an unusual “intimate” relationship with Las Cienegas having lived there shortly after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired the area. As a scientist, he has worked on Las Cienegas and adjacent areas for over 25 years. From the time that BLM acquired the Las Cienegas, Jeff became immersed in inventorying, monitoring, planning, and improving this landscape. He was a key participant in developing the LCNCA land use plans which sets out collaborative goals and processes to preserve aquatic and threatened and endangered species. Jeff has ensured the success of the Biological Planning field sessions to maintain involvement. He developed projects to improve conditions ranging from “blowing up a dam” and restoring creek conditions to re-developing wetland sites including youth participation. He has been a key partner in major projects, the Cieneguita Wetlands Redevelopment and the FROG Project, highly successful multi-partner efforts to rid the watershed of American bullfrogs and to conserve native vertebrates, like the Mexican garter snake and Chiricahua leopard frog. Jeff has ensured that effective collaboration occurs in managing threatened and endangered species despite the time-consuming, complex, legal, and complicated requirements that make such partnerships challenging. He has reached out and advocated internally to ensure that native fish and aquatic species and habitats are sustained despite difficult natural settings, slow administrative processes, and conflicting uses. His long-term and numerous contributions to native species extends beyond the Las Cienegas and the Cienega and San Pedro watersheds.

For over 25 years, Karen’s story – from bride living on the Las Cienegas to founder of the collaborative movement for the NCA – illustrates how dear the grasslands are to her and how her involvement ensures that it is sustained.

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In 1995, Karen became the lead for the resource management plan for the Empire-Cienega Resource Conservation Area. She and her manager initiated a unique approach to land use planning that was collaborative, strong on public participation, and utilized an adaptive management approach. Karen worked with the community to develop the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership (SVPP), and in 2000, Las Cienegas NCA was established. Some lands, mostly north of I-10, were left out of the NCA, and Karen worked with other community leaders to develop the Cienega Corridor Conservation Council, a multi-stakeholder public forum modeled after the SVPP, and she continued to guide both for several years. With the realization that a 501(c)(3) organization was needed to support SVPP and CCCC, Karen was instrumental in the creation of the CWP and continues to support the CWP in many ways. Besides being a joy to work with, Karen has been a bridge-builder across jurisdictions and personalities, encouraging outspoken individuals at opposite poles to become colleagues with common aspirations. She works with individuals and teams in all kinds of settings, using education, common understanding, and a commitment to civility to encourage us all to aspire to achieving the greater common good. Karen Simms was recognized in 2014.

Ian Tomlinson is associated with the words “trusted”, “cooperative”, “respected”, “adaptive”, “land steward”, and “community partner”. Ian is a well-respected prominent member of the Sonoita/Elgin community in the upper watershed.

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His involvement in the Cienega Watershed Partnership (CWP) and with the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership (SVPP) helped to build trust within this important community. Ian served on the CWP Board of Directors as board member and officer, and is a member of the CWP Advisory Council. Ian is a rancher with roots in the community and a rancher who sets a strong example of land stewardship with a conservation ethic. His willingness to cooperate in the many conservation projects associated with the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, the Forest Service and on his own private land are helping pave the way for other conservation/ranch partnerships in this community and watershed. As a holder of the largest grazing lease in the upper watershed, his adaptation to new and evolving land management practices have a huge impact on the watershed. His patience in negotiating with bureaucracies, archaeologists, biologists, hydrologists, etc. are greatly appreciated and should be recognized. Ian makes himself available to work with the Biological Planning Process technical teams, landscape workshops, and science workshops. Ian’s work with The Frog Conservation Project as one of the project partners to eradicate bullfrogs and build native aquatic populations greatly aided in the success of that 3-year project. For his many efforts, Ian and the Vera Earl Ranch Inc. were recognized in January 2014 with the Secretary of the Interior’s Partners for Conservation Award. His success with a profitable ranching operation in the Cienega Watershed is proof for others that utilizing science can blend technology with ecology without financial sacrifice. Ian was nominated in 2015.


Elizabeth Webb contributed to the mission of the CWP, the SVPP, and the CCCC through her many volunteer efforts towards the protection, preservation, and stewardship of the cultural and natural resources in this area.

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She hiked nine miles along Cienega Creek dry-mapping the area for Pima Association of Governments. She committed many hours promoting awareness of the importance of protecting the watersheds by speaking at various functions, handing out educational literature, attending public meetings, and canvassing door-to-door in support of open space and County bonding initiatives. Elizabeth has helped identify “Important Riparian Areas” for Pima County Flood Control and was instrumental in helping the EPA designate Davidson Canyon as an “Outstanding Water”. She has served on the Resource Advisory Council for the Bureau of Land Management, is a volunteer wildlife tracker for Sky Island Alliance, and co-founded the Vail Preservation Society. She has worked in all officer capacities for the Empire-Fagan Coalition. In large part because of her passionate enthusiasm, Elizabeth personifies the notion that to make a difference, one MUST ACT. She doesn’t know what it means to take a back seat and let others do the work; she takes action. And her actions on behalf of our small part of the world have made a difference for every resident of the greater Vail area and Southern Arizona. Elizabeth was recognized in 2014.

Jeff Williamson is a long-time, dedicated ecologist and collaborator in the Cienega Watershed. He was an early member of the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership and worked tirelessly in the creation of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.

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A founding member of the Cienega Watershed Partnership, Jeff helped shape its mission and programs. He has served as board member, vice-chairman, and treasurer. He now sits on the CWP Advisory Council. Jeff represents the Watershed in meetings, forums, and work groups ranging from local to national, dealing with regional landscape management and addressing issues such as restoration, habitat corridors, land trusts, native species. He is a leader in ensuring an ecosystem approach in land use planning, aiding us to consider impacts to systems through creative methods such as climate change scenarios. To all, he brings his perspective that we ought to be collaborative, think large-scale about watersheds, and commit to and complete on-the-ground projects. Jeff’s contribution to the Watershed can at minimum be measured in hours and miles: all the while living in Phoenix, he donated thousands of each in the Watershed to ensure that it is sustained, its resources protected, and the ongoing values of the lands he loves be continued. Jeff was recognized in 2013.

d. 2009

For the last fifteen years of his life, Stephen Wood dedicated his life to the Arizona Trail, first as part of the Southern Arizona Mountain Biking Association (SAMBA) which signed on as the stewards of the Santa Rita Mountains segment.

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When SAMBA moved on, Stephen took on the steward responsibilities, which he fulfilled for nine years. A work trip for Stephen was not easy, as he didn’t own a vehicle and would rent a pickup truck to haul tools and workers. However, he did five or six work trips a year to keep up with needed maintenance, with a core of followers who rarely missed a trip. Stephen had ownership of his ATZ segment, and expected the workers to do it his way. Bernie Stalmann, who worked with Stephen, recalls, “[H]e laid out the tools all ready to go—sharp and clean. He then explained how to use each one—safely. . . . If he had a new worker, he would spend time one-on-one to ensure that you know what needed done and how to do it.“ Stephen preferred to work hard and without fanfare. His commitment should be an inspiration to those who come after him, working on the Arizona Trail.

For additional information, please contact us, or nominate someone for the Wall of Honor.

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