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The smell of freshly-mowed grass floats across the rolling golden prairie at Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Tucson’s highest peak, Mount Wrightson, stands 20 miles toward the Southwest as the hawk flies. Keith Arnold, a wildlife conservation student at the University of Arizona, shoves a black-tailed prairie dog into an artificial burrow dug nearly 8 feet into the clay soil.
William Wrightson, civil engineer and entrepreneur, was instrumental in Arizona gaining Territorial status in the mid-1800s.
Rick Metcalf/Special to The Explorer, Massive rock formations mark the summit of 9,453-foot Mount Wrightson in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.
Rick Metcalf/Special to The Explorer, One of the many natural springs found throughout the Mount Wrightson Wilderness lies frozen on a cold December morning.
Rick Metcalf/Special to The Explorer, New vegetation is finding a foothold in burn areas of the Santa Rita Mountains below the peak of Mount Wrightson.
Rick Metcalf/Special to The Explorer, At Josephine Saddle, a memorial sign stands in remembrance of three Boy Scouts who lost their lives in a violent snowstorm Nov. 15, 1958.