Backyards and Beyond - January 9, 2008
Jeff Schalau, Associate Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County

Backyards and Beyond is a new quarterly magazine started by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension with assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. This magazine is designed for small-acreage landowners, new rural residents, and backyard enthusiasts. Through this publication we aim to provide the education and guidance landowners need to successfully manage their resources and care for their property.

Backyards and Beyond is part of a larger Cooperative Extension effort to address current and future population growth trends in rural Arizona. This new growth trend is called “exurbanization.” Exurbanization can be broadly defined as large-scale permanent settlement by urban people in non-metropolitan areas beyond typical suburban commuting distances.

Exurban areas are the fastest growing type of residential development in the United States. Exurbanization often occurs in areas where large ranches and farms are being subdivided for residential development or lot splits that create “wildcat” subdivisions. In Yavapai County, exurban growth is occurring on private lands within commuting distance of larger communities where amenities are located. It is occurring across the Verde Valley as well as Chino Valley/Paulden, Mayer, Dewey/Humboldt, Skull Valley/Kirkland, Williamson Valley, Ashfork, and Seligman.

Research indicates that many exurban residents share many demographic characteristics with suburban residents. However, Arizona exurbanites may not necessarily follow this trend. Cooperative Extension is currently conducting needs assessments and basic research to better define this group’s specific needs. Educational programs will be designed to address these identified needs. Meanwhile, we feel confident that exurbanites need science-based education about horse and livestock health, pasture management, water conservation, water well/septic system operation and maintenance, gardening and food production, wildlife conflicts, wildfire defensible space, and alternative energy.

As exurbanization occurs, we are beginning to realize some of the direct and indirect effects it will have on existing residents and services in these communities. Some of the direct effects will be wildlife habitat fragmentation, air quality degradation from additional dust, increased erosion from land clearing and confined livestock, domestic pets which may harass livestock and wildlife, introduction and spread of invasive species, negative impacts to water supplies (quality and quantity), and alteration of natural fire regimes.

Exurbanites will also increase the need for services such as health care, public utilities, law enforcement, and roads/infrastructure. These new residents will likely require high speed internet service with adequate bandwidth for current and future needs. They may also increase impacts to adjacent public lands through recreational use. All of these factors are anticipated and come with a cost, but what are the factors we have not anticipated?

While some new residents may not completely understand the ecological processes present in their new neighborhoods, most do value the resources that attracted them to these open spaces in the first place. For example, periodic natural wildfire is as much a part of the native forested ecosystem as the plant and wildlife species present. Public land managers use prescribed fire to ensure that fire continues to be part of the system without negatively impacting homes and property. However, fires cause smoke and smoke generates complaints when it does not dissipate quickly.

New residents need assistance in recognizing that they are as much a part of the landscape as the potential for wildfire and smoke from prescribed fires. Our hope is that Backyards and Beyond will help fill this void and engage exurban residents in the educational process. From there, Cooperative Extension can increase the depth of knowledge through non-formal classes and workshops which can then be enhanced through knowledgeable volunteers living within these communities.

The subscription cost for Backyards and Beyond is $10/year. A limited number of complimentary copies are available in our Cottonwood and Prescott offices. Subscription information and the entire Spring 2007 edition are available on the Backyards and Beyond web site at As an editor of Backyards and Beyond, I would like to invite you to subscribe and hear your ideas for future articles (928-445-6590 ext. 224 or

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has publications and information on gardening and pest control. If you have other gardening questions, call the Master Gardener line in the Cottonwood office at 646-9113 ext. 14 or E-mail us at and be sure to include your address and phone number. Find past Backyard Gardener columns or submit column ideas at the Backyard Gardener web site:

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Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr. #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Last Updated: July 16, 2009
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