Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

Freeport-McMoRan Safford Operations

Safford, Arizona, United States

Certified Gold through 2025

Project Name
Project Type
Burrowing Owl Habitat Management
Other Habitats
Burrowing Owl Management & Monitoring
Earth Day & Pollinators Initiative
Awareness & Community Engagement
Burrowing Owl Conservation Education
Awareness & Community Engagement
Bats & Agaves Education Project
Awareness & Community Engagement
Conservation Education on Riparian Restoration
Awareness & Community Engagement
About the Program
The Freeport-McMoRan Safford Operations site in Safford, Arizona, is located in the Upper Gila River Valley, originally home to Sonoran salt brush desert scrub. However, the land has been greatly degraded by years of agricultural use and consequential erosion and invasive species spread. Native bird species such as the burrowing owl were also displaced due to agriculture and other development. The team collaborates with a range of non-profit and academic partners to implement initiatives that restore local habitat, enhance habitat for the barn owl and burrowing owl and promote awareness among local students both at their Safford site and at Eastern Arizona College's Discovery Park Campus.

Practices and Impacts
  • In 2013, the team at Freeport-McMoRan initiated an effort to increase burrowing owl habitat on their property by installing artificial burrows. The 100 artificial burrows are used by a local animal care facility, Wild at Heart, for reintroductions of burrowing owls that have been displaced by commercial or agricultural development projects. Reintroductions here have benefitted from collaboration with researchers from New Mexico State University, who have developed best management practices. In 2019, the team and Wild at Heart installed extensions to 24 burrow entrances, based on new best management practices gleaned from research. These retrofitted burrows were then used for the reintroduction of 12 burrowing owls in October of that year.
  • The team also worked with Wild at Heart and the Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park campus to install three barn owl boxes in trees at the Discovery Park campus. In 2019, 12 owls were relocated to these boxes.
  • The team wanted to make their burrowing owl conservation efforts more accessible to a wider audience and at a greater frequency than was possible at their remote property. To accomplish this, the team worked with local teachers to develop curriculum units that were distributed to every fourth-grade classroom in the region. The team also partnered with Eastern Arizona College staff in the implementation of an annual Earth Day event at Discovery Park. This event is attended by hundreds of fourth and fifth grade students. The team also worked to incorporate an owl pellet dissection activity into the annual Gila Valley SciTech festival.
  • To foster a better understanding of the importance of bats to the region and the critical link between nectivorous bats and agave plants, the team created the Bats & Agaves educational initiative. The team hosted a Bat Week event at Discovery Park, which served as a continuation of learning for students who had previously attended Earth Day and other conservation events. For this activity, the team gave students a presentation on bats, played a bat-themed bingo game and led an agave planting event outside at Discovery Park.
  • To provide learners of all ages with opportunities to engage with STEM education through the lens of pollinator conservation, the team also hosts pollinator education presentations and hands-on booths at the Earth Day event and at events hosted by the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Learners at these events are taught about the importance of pollinators to the local ecosystem and are given a hands-on look at pollinators and the native plants they depend on.
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