Code of the West - Mother Nature

Residents of rural areas may experience unique problems when the elements and the earth turn unfriendly. Here are some thoughts for your consideration.
CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR PROPERTY - The physical characteristics of your property can be both positive and negative. Forested areas are a wonderful environmental amenity, but they can also increase the risk of your home becoming involved in a catastrophic forest fire. Defensible perimeters are very helpful in protecting buildings from forest fires and can also protect the forest from igniting if your house catches on fire. Building in a forested area can be as dangerous as building in a flash flood area. If you start a forest fire, you are responsible for the costs incurred to fight and extinguish the fire. For more information, contact the Coconino County Public Works Emergency Services Division.

DUST - Because of the County's arid climate, dust is a common rural characteristic. Large amounts of windborne dust can be generated from unpaved dirt, cinder or gravel roads. If you or anyone in your family suffer from respiratory ailments, it is important to consider how the dust may affect your health. While forming an improvement district to pave roads may help, dust will always be a reality in rural areas.

LANDSCAPING - Because much of Coconino County receives less than 20 inches of precipitation per year, water is a scarce resource that should be used wisely. Therefore, green lawns that require expensive irrigation are not feasible in this area. Drought-tolerant native vegetation and Xeriscape are the preferred and practical landscape designs. Coconino County Cooperative Extension agents can help you identify the best plants and vegetation for your property. Also, the County has a specific Landscape Ordinance with requirements for commercial developments.

SNOW ACCUMULATION - North facing slopes or canyons rarely see direct sunlight in the winter. There is a possibility that large amounts of snow will accumulate and not melt throughout the winter. In these conditions, keeping an access road open can be difficult and expensive.

STEEP SLOPES - Steep slopes can slide in unusually wet weather. Large rocks can also roll down steep slopes and can be dangerous to people and destructive to property.

TOPOGRAPHY - The topography of the land can tell you where water will drain during rain storms and snow melt conditions. When property owners fill in washes, the natural drainage may be rerouted toward your house or your neighbor's.

FLASH FLOODS - Flash floods can occur, especially during spring run-off or summer thunderstorms, and they can turn a dry wash into a river. It would be wise to obtain a floodplain map from Coconino County Community Development before deciding where to build your home, but keep in mind that not all flood prone areas are shown on these maps. If you build in a flood hazard area, you may be required to purchase flood insurance, which can be very expensive. Typically the County does not provide equipment or labor to protect private property from flooding.

WILDLIFE - Nature provides us with some wonderful neighbors. Most, such as deer, elk and eagles, are positive additions. However, even "harmless" animals can cross the road unexpectedly and cause serious traffic accidents. If you do not handle your pets and trash properly, they could cause problems for you and the wildlife that lives around you. Rural development encroaches on the traditional habitat of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, bears, mosquitoes and other animals that can be dangerous to humans. Generally speaking, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance. Arizona Game and Fish offers many free publications on living with wildlife.