Year Inducted: 2008
Nominated by Robinett Rangeland Resources
The Brophy families of Sonoita, Ariz., are regional winners of the 2008 Environmental Stewardship Award. In its 18th year, the award recognizes cattle operations that are proven stewards of the land, dedicated to natural resource conservation through the use of innovative, cost-effective stewardship practices.
Located on the five miles from the Mexico boarder, the Babacomari Ranch is a family owned operation that was purchased by the Brophy family in 1935. The Brophy‘s were the third owner of this history-rich land, once owned by the King of Spain. Currently three generations own and operate the family ranch and assisted by ranch foreman Doug Ruppel, the Babacomari Ranch is the longest continuous section of land in the state of Arizona. Spanning 26 miles in length, the ranch varies in elevation from 5,600 feet to 4,000 feet and comprises 28,300 acres. They were selected from entries submitted within NCBA Region VI, which includes California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.
"The Babacomari Ranch has distinguished itself as a productive land and cattle operation in a location facing forage challenges because of terrain,“ said Dave Petty, chairman of the selection committee. "This is an extremely diverse operation that has worked collaboratively with multiple local, state, and national groups to restore hundred of acres of grasslands, riparian habitat and endangered species.“
When purchased by Frank Brophy in 1935, the ranch was run as a registered Hereford operation. His main work, spanning 25 years, was the recapturing of fertile grasslands with intense conservation work. In 1951, Frank placed the ranch into a family corporation that would keep the operation in family hands and where it is today involving four generations of Brophy family ownership. Today the ranch is a unique ownership structure by 57 family members. The ranch is led by managing partner, Ben Brophy. Babacomari Ranch is operated today as a stocker cattle enterprise running a combination of feeder steers and a bred heifer development program.
"Ben and family have developed an ownership base that allows family members to be involved in the cattle operation while living all over the country,“ said Petty. "Conservation has been a component of the operation since it was purchased by Frank Brophy and continues to be today. The Brophy family‘s commitment to the land, wildlife and cattle industry is evident in the many improvements they have made on their operation."
By partnering with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCD), the Brophy family has developed 25 monitoring transects thoughout the ranch since 1996 for trend analysis and management implications. In addition, they are also currently involved in two Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) contracts covering brush control, water development and fencing, and one Watershed Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) contract to improve and protect critical spring water ecology and the endangered Gila Chub fish.
Through one of the EQIP contracts, the Babacomari Ranch has been able to implement root plowing on 2,000 acres that opened up the land to increased water saturation and decreased sheet erosion while increasing forage production. Partnerships do not end there for the Babacomari Ranch. In partnering with The Nature Conservancy, the Brophy‘s are working to place 16,000 acres of the ranch into conservation easements held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
"With an open gate policy, the Babacomari Ranch has welcomed people and organizations to their ranch to learn about conservation, stewardship, wildlife and cattle,“ said Petty. —The combination of family values, work ethic and a progressive understanding of conservation, the Babacomari Ranch is rich in tradition and education.“
Neighboring the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch (AWRR), owned by the National Audubon Society, the Babacomari is leading the way in conservation. In working with the Audubon Society, the Babacomari ranch has assisted in research based around grazing impacts on forage and wildlife that has shaped conservation and land management actions in the semi-arid grasslands of the Southwest. It is easy to see that the Babacomari mission is being met: "The Babcomari Ranch is a profit-oriented company that holistically protects preserves and enhances the natural resources, historic integrity and esthetic qualities of the Babacomari Ranch while providing a creative and collaborative environment that enhances the quality of life for its landowners, neighbors and employees.“
"Many research and monitoring studies have been conducted on the Babcomari and on AWRR, providing comparisons between grazed and ungrazed sites,“ said Linda Kennedy, Ph.D., director of Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch. "In my eight-year tenure here, the Brophy enterprise has never turned down a request to conduct a study on their land."