Sky Islands - Chiricahua, © Roxie Crouch
© Roxie Crouch

Sky Islands

Featured Landscapes in Sky Islands

Jaguar border crossings

There are relatively few areas of high potential connectivity for Jaguar habitat across the U.S.-Mexico border. These areas are concentrated along the border in Southeastern Arizona and Southwestern New Mexico in the Sky Islands Focal Area. Accommodating jaguar in this area may be critical for their continued ability to move across the border if U.S. border security measures continue to intensify. Recent sightings of jaguar in Arizona have been in the mountainous “sky islands” between the border and Tucson. Defenders is working to protect existing jaguars and to keep open corridors along the border so individuals can move north from Mexico. Defenders operates camera traps to document jaguars in this landscape and challenges development, like the Rosemont Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, that would threaten the animal’s critical habitat.

Gila National Forest

The Gila National Forest is 3.3 million acres of forested hills, imposing mountains and vast grasslands hugging the Arizona-New Mexico state line. It is probably best known for its wilderness areas, in particular the Gila Wilderness - the first wilderness in the United States. The Gila and San Francisco Rivers form the Gila River Headwaters and are one of the last remaining undammed river systems in the Southwest. The Gila National Forest is a refuge for numerous threatened and endangered plants and animals including the Mexican gray wolf, Southwest willow flycatcher, Mexican spotted owl and numerous fish. Approximately 337 bird species have been documented in the forest. The high number of bird species reflects the diverse ecological habitats found on the Gila and its location on a migratory flight path.