/ Modified sep 17, 2013 7:47 a.m.

AZ Research Ranch Showcases Local Grasslands

Hundreds of native plants, animals depend on these diverse ecosystems; visitors allowed on limited basis.




Arizona is usually associated with rugged and rocky terrain, as found in the Grand Canyon National Park or Saguaro National Park, but the state also has rolling hills of lush grasslands that may seem more representative of places, such as Kansas or Oklahoma.

Southeast of Tucson, near the small communities of Elgin and Patagonia, the National Audubon Society operates the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, a protected habitat that is also serving as a living laboratory for multiple scientists and studies.

The research ranch is an area of about 8,000 acres, and is home to hundreds of endemic plants and animals.

The facility was once a working cattle ranch, but since these hoofed animals were removed in the 1960s, experts said the native flora and fauna have been on a rebound.

Still, they continue to face challenges, including exotic grasses and other species.

"It's just incredible what might be flying, crawling or walking through this area at any given time," said Roger Cogan, a naturalist who worked at the Phoenix Zoo, and currently works at the Audubon society.

The ranch allows visitors on a limited basis. Since it is not a park, administrators ask for people to please call or email in advance if they plan to visit, in order to protect the research and environment at the site.

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