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A massive gunbattle between rival drug and migrant trafficking gangs near the U.S. border Thursday left 21 people dead and at least six others wounded, prosecutors said.

The fire fight occurred in a sparsely populated area about 12 miles from the Arizona border, near the city of Nogales, that is considered a prime corridor for immigrant and drug smuggling.

The Sonora state Attorney General's Office said in a statement that nine people were captured by police at the scene of the…

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Buffelgrass has become well known as an invasive exotic species, but many other dangerous exotics threaten parts of the southwest and have garnered much less attention. One in particular comes to mind from my experiences: Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii). This mustard has an affinity for sandy or bottomland soil in the middle and especially lower elevation Sonoran Desert. It has spread rapidly across large areas of southwestern Arizona and southeastern California. I've…

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The state fired a worker Friday for lying to federal investigators about the fact that the U.S.'s last known wild jaguar was lured to his capture and for concocting a cover-up story, officials said.

The employee, Thornton W. Smith, 40, said biologist Emil McCain told him he had put jaguar scat at two sites near the area where Macho B was captured a year ago southwest of Tucson, the Arizona Game and Fish Department revealed late Friday.

"We made a different story to protect the…

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It's becoming common knowledge that buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) is a huge problem for native vegetation in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona. In Sonora the problem is much worse. Vast areas of Sonora are over-run with buffelgrass. Ranchers in Sonora continue to blade and till desert and thornscrub to plant this invasive grass, which helps as cattle forage primarily only in the short-term. Once established the grass becomes less favored by cows unless there is little else…

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Half of this story is now being told - the intentional capture of Macho B by AZ Game and Fish. The other half of the story, which may be impossible to prove now (ironically due to Fish and Wildlife ordering the wrong kind of necropsy), is that the capture and associated stress, drugs, foot, and canine tooth damage led to the death of Macho B. The decision to euthanize Macho B may have been warranted by the time of re-capture.

Macho B had been in a foot snare for an unknown amount of…

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Sky Island Alliance in 2009 has started a multi-year biodiversity assessment of the Sonoran Sky Islands called the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment (MABA). This project is much needed as there is a dirth of information about the region. Aaron Flesch is working with Sky Island Alliance on this project and is already collecting bird, plant, and other data.

MABA data is housed in a MySQL database connected to the web for public access. You can interact with these data at…

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In June I trekked with a friend to the top of the Sierra El Pinito, a good-sized Sky Island just Southeast of Nogales. The Sierra El Pinito nudge their way into the pine forest community at 2230 meters, high enough to compete for serious Sky Island status in Sonora. They are just South of the border from the Santa Ritas and Patagonias on the US side, but because of the the political boundary they are a world away when it comes to fire suppression and natural fire regimes.

To drive the…