Friends of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Annual Report 2022

The Friends provide much-needed assistance to the Refuge in respect to funding, environmental education, and physical work for habitat and wildlife projects. The Refuge has been deeply hampered by staff and funding shortages, and in light of this shortfall, the Friends fill an important role. The Friends step in when they can with finances and volunteer labor to initiate or continue projects so important for the welfare of wildlife and their habitat.

Refuge Manager Rich Albers arrived in September and the refuge also has a new Maintenance Mechanic Lead, Devin Williams. Hannah Pierce, Wildlife Refuge Specialist, continues to wear a lot of hats, working in visitor services, habitat restoration, and the masked bobwhite quail program.

In 2021 the Visitor Center was closed much of the time because of Covid, and volunteers greeted and advised visitors outside. Now that the virus has receded, the Visitor Center is again open seven days a week when volunteers are available. Staff have returned to their offices, having worked from home when the virus was at its worst. Field projects also moved ahead with fewer constraints in 2022. 

Nature Shop and Money Matters

Enterprising volunteers staff the Center, greet visitors, answer questions and offer refuge maps, caps, pins, t-shirts and other items related to refuge wildlife and habitat.  Sales continued to slump in 2022 because of residual effects of the virus but are now picking up.  Gross sales (not considering wholesale purchase) for the last four years reflect the ups and downs, but the picture is improving.

2019: $7,534             2020: $4,682             2021: $2,714             2022: $4142.14

Income primarily stems from membership dues, donations, grants, and Nature Shop sales.  Expenditures include Nature Shop inventory, fundraising, grant project expenditures, the volunteer appreciation lunch, outreach/education, insurance and — of vital importance — assistance in habitat projects.

In the budget chart below, figures reflect startup costs in preparation for our first ever fundraiser, held in January 2023.  More on that in the 2023 annual report. 

Friends of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge 2022 Statement of Financial Income and Expense

Bank Balance Jan 1, 2022$24,009.06
2022 Incoming Funds
Arizona Sportsmen Grant$12,515.00
Cash Donations$671.17
2023 January Fundraiser Ticket Sales$1,680.00
Individual Contributions$3,718.00
Membership Dues
     Lifetime Memberships$3,000.00
     Annual Memberships$2,650.00
Sales – Visitor Center Nature Shop$4,142.14
Total 2022 Income$29,337.05$29,337.05
2022 Debits
Arivaca Phonebook listing$60.00
Bank fees$129.32
2023 January Fundraiser Expense$314.20
Nature Shop Inventory/Expense$1,171.07
Operations (3 year Website hosting, Licenses,
     fees, postage)$854.99
Insurance (Liability/D&O)$966.80
Walt Anderson Nature Articles$675.00
Volunteer Thank you luncheon$225.87
Volunteer caps$630.08
Refuge Assistance as follows:
Solar panels, pump & 5000 gal holding tank
(AZ Sportsman Grant and Friends of BANWR Funds)$14,193.00
Installation of human drinkers (Lush Grant funds)$6,838.09
Christmas Bird Count$25.00
Computers and Other Tech supplies$43.11
Facility Improvement$219.25
Fence Removal Supplies$154.50
Ed Williams (Well repair)$2,500.00
Quail Drinker supplies$58.61
Total 2022 Debits$29,058.89$29,058.89
Ending Bank Balance December 31, 2022$24,287.22


An impressive 1,255 hours!  That is the number of hours supplied to the refuge in 2022 by dedicated volunteers recruited by the Friends.  These folks work in multiple capacities:

Erosion Control

Wilderness Volunteers is a nationwide organization comprised of dedicated people who donate their time to work. Again in 2022 14 Wilderness Volunteers came to BANWR, where they built erosion control structures to retard damage to washes caused by summer rains. The Friends contracted Kyle Thompson, environmental consultant, to direct this endeavor. In February 2022, 17 control dams were constructed, retarding water flow which would tear out soil and vegetation.

Building erosion control dams with mesquite branches

Arivaca Cienega Boardwalk

The tireless Wilderness Volunteers marched on and built new sections of boardwalk.  These were constructed in the refuge carpentry shop and then installed at Arivaca Cienega by Maintenance Mechanic Lead Devin and the refuge fire crew.

The new bridge, part of the newly constructed walkway at Arivaca Cienega.

Spacious Pens for the Masked Bobwhite

Near headquarters several “flight pens” house the endangered masked bobwhite quail. These large vegetated enclosures simulate wild conditions and allow the breeding birds to move with relative freedom, including in flight. In November 2022, eight Wilderness Volunteers installed a hardware cloth ceiling in five large pens and five smaller ones. Wilderness Volunteers also put in stretch-netting to line the pens’ interior and prevent birds from flying into the wire roofs or walls, which can cause injury or death.

Wendell rolled out the hardware cloth to workers on ladders
Wilderness Volunteers installing stretch netting.  The lining deflects flying bobwhites away from wire walls.

Fence Modification

Bisecting the refuge east to west is a county road flanked by barbed wire. This barrier is a danger to deer, which can become entangled when jumping, and is even more troublesome for pronghorns, which try to go under or between the wires. In 2022 volunteers took down 5-1/2 miles that stretched across the grassland along the Sasabe-Arivaca Road. Fence came down on both sides of the road, with 1-1/2 miles removed by Wilderness Volunteers and the remaining taken down by seasonal refuge volunteers and folks from local communities. 

What a sight to see the open grassland and know that this barrier is no longer a hazard for wildlife!

Another success story is altering the fence along highway 286, which intersects the refuge north to south. In the refuge’s southern half, refuge land spans east and west across the highway, and wildlife have to negotiate two 4-strand barbed wire fences to get across the road. With permission from the Arizona Department of Transportation, volunteers altered 4.2 miles of barbed wire along the highway to become “wildlife-friendly fence.”  That means a lower barbless top wire and the bottom wire a minimum of 18 inches above the ground. This helps jumping deer and also pronghorns, who instinctively try to crawl under rather than jump. The good deed was accomplished by volunteers from the working/camping organization Four Wheel Campers, and by Sierra Club workers who came from across the U.S.     

Refuge photo by B. Swarbrick            


In the year 2022, the Friends were awarded one grant and hosted two volunteer groups, and the result was a tremendous amount of work!

The Friends applied for and received a $9,954 grant from LUSH Cosmetics in 2021. This was partially spent in 2022 to buy materials and supplies that help wildlife in multiple ways. Purchases included wildlife-friendly fencing, well repair supplies, and hardware and wire mesh for the quail flight pens. The funding acquired a wildlife drinker for San Luis Well and also a water drinker for any person needing water in the desert. A separate water source avoids damage or impact to the wildlife drinker. Now San Luis Well is active and pumping, providing water for wildlife in this arid grassland.

Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation (AZSWC) is a non-profit organization that provides grants for wildlife projects, funded by sales of “wildlife conservation” license plates for vehicles.  In 2022 the Friends were awarded over $12,000 to fund construction of a solar pump, solar panels, and a storage tank at San Luis Well.


Membership numbers totaled 56 at the end of 2022. The Friends of Buenos Aires are seeking someone to head up and grow our membership program. Becoming a member is one of the best ways to support Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Please consider volunteering for this vital part of our Friends work.

Outreach to the Public

At the westernmost extension of the refuge is Brown Canyon in the Baboquivari Mountains. Here the Environmental Education Center, a charming stone ranch house, hosts nature seminars and overnight stays by environmental groups. Presently the canyon is closed to public visits due to water issues at the Education Center and because the road is virtually impassable.

Friends are working to prepare the opening of the canyon for visitors.  Dedicated member Jean Thomas has trained new hike leaders, and ten people are now ready to guide people into beautiful Brown Canyon.  We hope for opening in the fall of 2023.

Oak woodland in Brown Canyon, part of the Baboquivari Mountain range

The refuge receives several requests per year from visiting school groups. In December 2022 a high school senior class from Colorado visited the refuge with border issues as their focus. Audiovisual programs and discussion were presented by Bonnie Swarbrick, Friends President, and Taylor Amos, Refuge Law Officer. Taylor then escorted the group to the border wall. A special treat for the public, funded by Friends, are the twice monthly wildlife essays supplied by a Prescott College wildlife professor, Walt Anderson.  These are a fun and educational bridge to the public.  They are viewable on the Friends website –

Other Projects

Every year in January a nearby ranch owner organizes a trash pickup along the 40-plus mile highway 286.  Friends volunteers cleaned up a 5-mile stretch along the highway within the refuge.  It’s not just trashy work — Everyone had fun. 

Refuge fire crew work to remove mesquite trees to open up visibility and space for pronghorns. Controlled burns help to accomplish this goal, as does direct cutting and removal of barbed wire fence. Friends and other volunteers have been major players in fence removal.

Please Join Us !

If you are not a member of the Friends of Buenos Aires NWR, join us!   If you are a member and have not renewed, please do.  Your membership and contributions will help the refuge continue its mission of safeguarding a marvelous legacy of wildlife and the sweeping grasslands, riparian areas and mountain enclaves that they call home.

Please consider volunteering to chair our membership program. This would not need to be a Board position.

We always welcome energetic, enthusiastic individuals to become a member of the Friends Board of Directors.  You can help promote our goal of conserving our wildlife heritage. This is your wildlife refuge, and we need your help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *