Valer and Joe Austin
Joe and Valer Austin
Conservation Ranchers, El Coronado Ranch
Chiricahua Mountains, AZ
Joe and Valer Austin obtained the El Coronado Ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains of Southeast Arizona rather unexpectedly 30 years ago when the call came that they were the highest bidders. The Austins soon found themselves far from their New England roots and chest deep in conservation work. Clad in blue jeans, a faded denim button-up and a broad rimmed cowboy hat, Joe lead us enthusiastically around his property, explaining the purpose of the many hundred chincheras, or rock dams, that line the creeks and washes on their 2000 acre property. The purpose of the chincheras, says Joe, is to slow water just enough throughout the watershed to make way for native plants which Valer is diligently working to reseed. After years of devastating grazing, the vegetation needs a boost to return and regulate water flow on its own. This project, however, is just one small piece of their work. With a total of 150,000 acres either owned or leased between Arizona and Mexico, the couple’s ultimate mission is to create a wildlife corridor that is “large enough and healthy enough to support a wide range of native flora and fauna”. The Austins have employed an impressive crew of ecologists, laborers, and conservationists to achieve their conservation goals. Joe offered a refreshingly different piece of advice upon our departure – at least a few of us should become rich investment bankers with good morals. The 1% needs a few more conservation minded people.
By Grayson Carlile