Current Campaign: Date Creek Ranch
Date Creek Ranch
Date Creek is a rare oasis in an arid, high desert environment. It is a tributary of the Santa Maria River and part of the Bill Williams River watershed, in southwestern Yavapai County. The area straddles a transition zone between the Mohave and Sonoran deserts, with Joshua trees, saguaro, yucca and cholla prominent. Elevations range from 2500’ in the lower desert to 4500’ feet on nearby Date Creek Mountain.
A six-mile portion of Date Creek runs through private, deeded land containing the historic Date Creek Ranch. The ranch is located 20 miles northwest of Wickenburg off of US 93, which bisects the ranch and leads to Date Creek Ranch Road and the headquarters to the east.
In 1966, when Phil and Geri Knight purchased the ranch, the ephemeral and perennial streambed of Date Creek was little more than a broad swath of barren sand with little scattered vegetation along its course. Javelina and other large wildlife were rare; turkey and beaver were little more than tales of the land’s past, long ago extirpated from the creek. Their stewardship of the creek over the next 15 years, including the then-novel approach of resting grazing pastures seasonally, resulted in bringing Date Creek back to life, and with it with several environmental awards.
Today, the four generations of Knights live on the ranch, which encompasses a lease on 37,000 acres of State Trust lands and 647 acres of deeded property. Since the 1980s the Knight family have been applying “holistic management” principles, pioneered by Allan Savory. With this well- documented landscape restoration approach, all grazing plans are evaluated to determine if they are environmentally, socially, and conomically sound. The Knights believe their stewardship, and the support of Arizona Game and Fish in reintroducing beaver and turkey, has enhanced the diversity of life, supported healthy soils, improved quality of life for all living things, as well as beneficial business conditions for the landowners.
Building on the rest/rotation grazing practices implemented years before, the Knight’s current management approach continues to give the Date Creek riparian area and the 52 small pastures on the ranch the opportunity to rest during periods of plant growth, with remarkable results for birds, amphibians and mammals who thrive there. In 2006 fencing was built which created a narrow riparian pasture to gain more control over grazing and animal impact of the stream corridor, which makes up approximately 103 acres of the deeded ranch property. The fence was constructed in partnership with Arizona Game and Fish with matching funds from the Knights.
(See attached Arizona Game and Fish Department Survey Report, 2020).
Today, the Knight family wants nothing more than to permanently protect Date Creek Ranch encompassing six miles of Date Creek and the surrounding lands. Their careful stewardship for generations has made Date Creek Ranch a shining example in Arizona of how wise stewardship can support and restore a working landscape that supports enhanced biodiversity for some of Arizona’s most important resident and migratory species.
Partners / Stakeholders
The Central Arizona Land Trust (centralazlandtrust.org) is working with the Knight family to achieve permanent protection of 647 acres of the Date Creek Ranch. Keeping the Knight family on the ranch under the terms of a conservation easement assures continuation of their legacy of stewardship with oversight from CALT. The Knights are willing to make a perpetual commitment with the acquisition of the conservation easement.
CALT is a nationally accredited land trust, with over three decades of achieving permanent protection of ranches, farms, historic landmarks, and critical habitat, in partnership with willing landowners and municipalities. CALT sees that climate change, generational land transfers, and current economic pressures are calling for increased financial investments from stakeholders including state and local conservation agencies, environmental non-profits, foundations, and private donors.
CALT is seeking to engage partners who share our goal of permanent protection and stewardship of Date Creek and the Date Creek Ranch for current and future generations of the Knight family.
Birding at Date Creek Ranch
The Date Creek Birding Trip was lead by Eric Moore, owner of The Lookout – Jay’s Bird Barn and Becky Ruffner Board President, Central Arizona Land Trust. Our hosts were Kimberley Knight and Stefan Wolf, owners of Date Creek Ranch.
Date Creek Ranch consists of 640 acres of land holding six miles of Date Creek, with an additional 37,000 acres of leased State Trust Land. It is lying in a transition zone between the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, with mixture of Joshua trees, Saguaros, Cottonwood, Willow, and Palo Verde.
The Ranch is a host to 42 species of birds which thrive in this rare desert riparian environment.
It is also a thriving environment for cattle animals that are part of the farm. The family has implemented holistic resource management which includes frequently moving cattle from one pasture to another, allowing the land and vegetation to rest during the growing season.
In The Press:
“Date Creek Ranch looks toward conservation easement”
The historic Date Creek Ranch, located 20 miles outside of Wickenburg off U.S. Highway 93, has been a local favorite for decades, providing grass-fed beef, pasture-fed pork and allowing visitors to hand-pick apples and peaches from the 50-year-old orchards that dot the ranch land. Now, the ranch may become part of a conservation easement.
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