Sky Islands - Chiricahua, © Roxie Crouch
© Roxie Crouch

Sky Islands

Basic Facts about Sky Islands

Covering nearly 47 million acres in the American Southwest and northern Mexico, the Sky Islands are a global biodiversity hotspot.

About 65 percent of this region is in the United States, spread throughout Arizona and New Mexico. Perhaps best recognized as the birthplace of Aldo Leopold’s great American conservation ethic, the Sky Islands foster a rich variety of species and habitats, and are the last North American stronghold of such critically endangered, iconic species as the Mexican gray wolf and the jaguar.

Here, forested mountaintop “islands” are separated by, and appear to float among, vast areas of grassland and desert. This unique and intricate topography and blend of tropical and temperate climates gives the landscape an impressive level of biodiversity. The Sky Islands harbor more than half the bird species of North America, as well as black-footed ferrets, bison, desert tortoise, and at least 29 species of bats and several species of parrots. There are at least 41 endangered species in the Sky Islands region, including the jaguar, ocelot, Mexican gray wolf, thick-billed parrot, New Mexican ridge-nosed rattlesnake and Apache trout.

Also found within the Sky Islands are the Gila, Apache–Sitgreaves and Coronado National Forests and the San Pedro River — one of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in the Southwest.