Superior, AZ — Located in far eastern Pinal County, east of Superior and west of Miami, Arizona is the JI Ranch, a 266-acre site known for tall stands of Emory oak trees, rocky outcrops and natural beauty. Owned by Resolution Copper, the ranch is nestled within a Madrean Evergreen Woodland and surrounded by the Tonto National Forest. There are no freeways, no chain restaurants, no big-box retailers, and no industrial development — in fact it’s the perfect location to protect an endangered plant known as the Arizona hedgehog cactus.
“The endangered Arizona Hedgehog cactus, listed under the Endangered Species Act, is an important part of Arizona’s natural landscape and cultural heritage,” says Tara Kitcheyan, Sr. Advisor, Native American Affairs, Resolution Copper. “The vision of Resolution Copper is not only to stimulate the Copper Triangle economy, but to also preserve the cultural and historical heritage of the region, including the cultural heritage of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. We are honored to have the opportunity to protect and preserve the Arizona hedgehog cactus, a plant that is mutually important to the San Carlos Apache Tribe and to Resolution Copper,” Kitcheyan said.
In August 2012, under the watchful eye of biologists from Tucson-based WestLand Resources, approximately 1,000 small vegetative propagations, called “offsets” or “pups” were collected from mature Arizona hedgehog cactus growing on the JI Ranch. These cacti were planted in pots containing a mixture of native soil and sand, and kept in a greenhouse at the JI Ranch where they were monitored and watered monthly for more than three years. Some were observed budding, flowering, and producing “pups” of their own while in the greenhouse.
In March 2016, 364 Arizona hedgehog cactus offsets were planted by Resolution Copper within suitable habitat at the JI Ranch and with the help of volunteers from a youth group affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Chandler Stake. Habitat chosen for transplant sites included rock crevices, the base of boulders, and soil pockets under shrubs, with partial shade. The remaining Arizona offsets continue to be nurtured in the greenhouse for future planting.
“Working with young people in our community helps connect the youth to the environment and educates them on how to protect these natural ecosystems,” says Kami Ballard, Environmental Advisor, Resolution Copper. “In addition, these transplants will enhance the natural cactus population at the JI Ranch by increasing Arizona hedgehog cactus density.”
Arizona hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus) is a low-growing succulent native to the southwestern United States. On October 25, 1979, it was listed as an endangered plant under the Endangered Species Act. This cactus earned its name because its short, spiny stems resemble hedgehogs.