Subscriptions click here for 20% off! E-Mail:

Git Home!



LEFT: The largest water collection area (stock tank) on the ranch is at the highest elevation,
about 6,700 feet. The availability of water at this elevation enables cattle to graze without
moving down to water every other day. RIGHT: Abe and Lydia in front of the Martinez
farmhouse, originally built in 1903.

Scattered Cattle, Grass
& Good Water

Ranchers are the reason
why there’s so much wildlife in rural Arizona.

Story & photos © Mike Shirra

Abe and Lydia Martinez have spent more than a half century creating, building and maintaining a center of life for themselves, their domestic livestock and wildlife for miles around their deeded land and Forest Service allotment on the San Francisco River. Twenty-two miles east of Clifton, Ariz., Abe and Lydia have been on the ranch since 1948. Their expertise stems from knowing the land, its strengths and weaknesses. They know what their land needs to be healthy and sustainable.

“I scattered the cattle by developing our water,” Abe explained, as we made our way up the mountain to see the condition of his Forest Service allotment. “At one time they had a lot of cattle here and it hurt the country because they weren’t able to spread the cattle out. I could see that when I came here, so I developed water way up high where there’s a lot of grass. I also kept cattle out of the lower country when the grass was growing. My belief is to protect anything that’s hurting during the rainy season. Once the grass grows and matures, it produces seeds and roots to hold the soil.”

Over the years, Martinez built 26 water storage tanks in various sections of the ranch and with that water development, wildlife numbers and diversity have increased dramatically. “That’s one thing people don’t seem to understand,” he said. “We wouldn’t have half the wildlife around here without the stock tanks.”

It costs between $5,000 and $8,000 to build each of the stock tanks on the ranch, more if a well needs to be drilled. Martinez wonders aloud, “Who will be there to make sure the wildlife has water when the ranchers are pushed off the land?”

The Martinez Ranch covers a wide variety of land. From the Forest Service allotment on the ranch’s southern mountains to the 140 acres of deeded land in the valley below, it’s the last working ranch on this stretch of the San Francisco River. Their neighbors on the river have long since been forced out of ranching for one reason or another. Ultimately, these lands have made their way off the tax rolls and into the possession of the Forest Service through the federal land exchange process.

Monitoring the range is another important part of management on the Martinez Ranch. Each year the ranch monitors 60 different stations on the 23 sections of the allotment. Using Forest Service criteria to assess the condition of the range, the data indicates that his 23-square-mile allotment should be able to graze 317 head of cattle. Amazingly, the Forest Services will not accept this data.

“We’ve used (Forest Service) specifications and their own scales,” Martinez said. “We went to them every time we monitored, but it turned out that they just didn’t want to accept the scientific data. Instead, they wanted me to make some kind of a proposition. Their own criteria said this country would run 317 head, so I proposed to leave it at the 250 head–what we’ve been running since we’ve been here. And that’s where it stands. We’re still in the process. They’re even telling us that because of the pressure [from environmental groups], they need to cut cattle numbers in this country regardless of the scientific data or what they see on the range.”

Martinez underscores the hypocrisy when it comes to range management. When it comes down to it, what have they actually done for the land? Nothing, he says.

“These people who call themselves environmentalists get together and sue the Forest Service for not doing this and not doing that,” he said. “It’s our tax dollars that reward them for doing it. They don’t care if a lawsuit is substantial or not. Why? Because bureaucrats push through regulations that are unrealistic and unworkable in the first place. That’s the main thing. Too much regulation from people who really don’t know what’s going on. You sure don’t see those Forest Guardians up here learning what’s really happening on the ground.”

Martinez doesn’t believe the Forest Service will be able to take care of any of the improvements on the range. “They will all just go away,” he said. “It’s not just the cattle, but the birds, deer and wildlife that will go away, too. Ranchers are the reason why there’s so much wildlife in rural Arizona. These so-called environmentalists think that elimination of the range manager will be a good thing, when in reality it will be quite the opposite. No water for wildlife, no supervision of hunters, hikers and nobody to take care of the trash urban Arizonans bring into the national forests. Do you think the Forest Service is going to take on that responsibility?”

Mike Shirra is director of communications and marketing for the Arizona Beef Council and the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association.


Table of Contents | Git Home!

To Subscribe: Please click here for subscription or call 1-800-RANGE-4-U for a special web price

Copyright © 1998-2005 RANGE magazine
For problems or questions regarding this site, please contact Dolphin Enterprises.

last page update: 04.03.05