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Help Keep Ash Canyon, Arizona, Open to Birders! (Video #4)

I had planned a video this week talking about upcoming ABA events, but that will have to wait, as something very important and time-sensitive has come up. Birder access to Ash Canyon, Arizona, is in jeopardy and I strongly urge all of you to join me in speaking out to make sure that this wonderful spot remains open to us. A win here will be a win for all birders, everywhere. Directions on how to help in a moment.

Many of you already know Mary Jo Ballator’s Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast, which has welcomed day use of the grounds by property for the last 9 years without incident. Birders are asked to pay a $5 fee for the privilege of visiting the birdy and beautiful grounds, which are carefully landscaped with native plants and studded with popular bird feeding and watering stations. It’s considered the prime spot to see Lucifer Hummingbird in the U.S.


It’s also a reliable spot to see Arizona Woodpecker, shown here feeding young at a nest on the grounds of Ash Canyon B & B.


Though Mary Jo has welcomed us here for almost a decade with little or nothing in the way of problems or complaints, it is possible that she will be denied a permit to keep operating her small business. The issue revolves around some adjacent property owners wanting to keep birders and other visitors out. While I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, there have been no significant issues here. We have proven ourselves as a community to be good citizens and neighbors. Our impacts have been positive ones.

I’ve recorded this short video urging all of you to act now to help keep Ash Canyon open to birders.

Ready to help out? Here are the details:

Letters (send e-mails, time is short!) should contain a reference to Ash Canyon B&B and to parcel number 104-21-022. They must be received by noon, Friday April 1, Arizona time. Send e-mails to  Mr. Keith Dennis, Cochise County Planning Department, [email protected] with a CC to Mary Jo Ballator, [email protected]. And while you’re at it, copy me in, if you would: [email protected]

Please keep your comments brief and positive. I’d like us to be a loud and enthusiastic but still friendly chorus.

Below is the letter I sent. Feel free to borrow from it as you like. I put mine on ABA letterhead to make it look more official, but all you need do is send a simple e-mail. It will help. And it will be much appreciated, by me, by Mary Jo, and by your fellow birders. I bet you’ll get a kick out of doing it, too. Even if you’re never lucky enough to visit Ash Canyon, you’ll have helped us all grow stronger as a community. Thank you.

Ash Canyon letter  003

Big thanks to Richard Fray, who helped spread the word via a post on his blog and to ABA board member Kenn Kaufman, who shared Richard’s post on his Facebook wall, where I saw it.

Thanks also to Charles W. Melton of Near Famous Nature Photography for the use of his bird photographs.

Finally, biggest thanks of all to Mary Jo Ballator. We so appreciate your efforts on behalf of both birds and birders. Best of luck in the hearing!

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Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There's very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn't find fascinating, though he's especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds, including this Blog.
  • Steve Holzman

    Send a letter yesterday. Lifer Plain-capped Starthroat there. Let’s hope this works. I stressed the money I spent at local hotels and restaurants.

  • Steve Holzman

    Make that I SENT a letter yesterday.

  • Steve,

    Send or sent, either way, I’ll take it! Thanks for helping out.

  • Done!

  • A marvelous initiative, Jeff. Thank you.

    I haveta say, Steve Holzman’s comment is essential. Even the tightest of tightwad birders will spend hundreds of dollars on a visit to Arizona. That point is so important.

    Also, to the extent possible, indicate in your letter or e-mail that you have a personal connection to Ash Canyon. Say that you’ve been there. Or, if you haven’t been to Ash Canyon, say that you’ve been to Southeast Arizona. That local angle is super-important, it seems to me. We don’t want to come across as a bunch of out-of-state activists with no real buy-in to the local community. And, of course, we are not! A great many of us have been to Southeast Arizona, indeed even to Ash Canyon. We birders are a part of the community. We’re not outsiders. That spirit comes across in Jeff’s video and letter; and it helps to reinforce the point in the manner put forth by Steve.

    A final thought. In recent weeks, various folks have been asking some variation on the following questions: “Why should I join the ABA? What’s the ABA done for me lately?” It’s a fair question. And I think Jeff has just provided a powerful reason for supporting the ABA: Folks at the ABA are working to improve your birding experiences.

  • jen

    Can I “like” Ted Floyd’s comment above?

    Letter sent.

  • Jeff, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Terry Bronson

    I too sent an e-mail to Mr. Dennis of Cochise County in support of Mary Jo at Ash Canyon B&B. In it, I emphasized my visit 4 or 5 years ago and the nearly $2,000 I spent in Cochise County for lodging, food, guide, and other expenses.
    Multiply that (or even a smaller number such as $500) times hundreds or even thousands of birders and other visitors a year, and you can see the substantial economic impact on the County.

    Terry Bronson
    Morgantown, WV

  • Dana Bollin

    Thanks, Jeff for providing an opportunity for birders to let their fingers “Do the Walking” in support of birding / birds / and the economic impact of birders. Letter sent!
    Dana Bollin

  • Ann Oliver, Cincinnati

    I just sent a letter. Not as succinct as Jeff’s or Rick Wright’s. But stressed ALL the places across Cochise County, in addition to Ash Canyon and Sierra Vista, that I have patronized in three trips to this area, including restaurants, motels, lodges, gift shops, and the service department at an automotive

  • I owe three life birds to Ash Canyon Bed & Breakfast. I too sent an email. Birdchick makes a good point in her podcast about this serving as a reminder to birders everywhere to be on their best behavior and to have courtesy for neighbords.

  • Jim Rapp

    Bravo ABA! sending mine in the a.m.

  • Erik Bruder

    Letter has been sent. Let’s hope we can win one for the little guy this time.

  • Composing a letter as we speak. Got my life Lucifer’s hummingbird there, and I was just poaching. I remember marveling that I could do that, just sit in someone’s yard and see this wonderful bird, just because they were kind enough to let me. There is a greater good principle operating here, and I plan to stress that in the letter. Thanks for the alert. It will be good to see what this type of social networking outreach can accomplish. I believe it helped in getting a two-year moratorium on the Tennessee crane hunt. A lot. And now we’re fighting in Kentucky. Hundreds or thousands of emails can make a difference.

  • @BirdingBev

    I just flung my letter into to the wind. (I love the sound email makes as it sends, it’s so satisfying.) While I did not get my life Lucifer there, I did get a life Calliope there. Please keep us posted on the outcome.

  • John

    Excellent use of the blog and another reason why I am a member of the ABA.

  • Been there several times and every time is gets well, more weird.

    Arizona’s economic and social policies are irrational. Personally, I have pledged to boycott travel and monetary support that could be diverted from an environmental focus, to round up (supposedly) illegal aliens and to drum up ultra conservative sentiment. I was there in 2008 in SE AZ, and it was very uncomfortable. According to locals, any bad stuff is the fault of illegals, even though the numbers of illegal aliens immigrating to the US has significantly decreased over the past 5+ years.

    Don’t spend your precious $$ at Ramsey Canyon Inn.

  • It looks as if I read this article just in time. Actually, I was reading this blog’s monthly recap. It looks as if I was able to sneak my mail in just under the wire. Thank you for providing us the opportunity to help Mary Jo. As with many other posters on here, she provided my wife and I with our lifer Lucifer, and spend over an hour just sitting and chatting with us in the process. I’ll keep an eye on the blog for any updates.

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