Important Bird Areas

Anderson Mesa, Coconino National Forest

Lake complex, including permanent, semi-permanent lakes and wetlands, ephemeral wetlands, grasslands, pinyon-juniper and coniferous forest.

Anderson Mesa begins about 9 miles southeast of Flagstaff, continuing as a gently sloping tableland for approximately 25 miles to the southeast. The northern lakes are Marshall, Lower and Upper Lakes Mary, and Mormon. Ashurst and Kinnikinck Lakes are more central. The southern lakes are Long, Soldiers', Soldiers' Annex, Tremaine and Hay. Along the length of the mesa are many ephemeral wetlands of varying sizes. Low bluffs outline part of the western edge. Lakes Mary & Mormon are below the bluffs. Mormon Mountain stands on the west of Mormon Lake. Various habitats are coniferous & deciduous trees, shrubs, small canyons, open grasslands, seasonal marsh wetlands, shallow wet meadows and lacustrine. Northern Arizona Audubon Society is the steward for this site. More information about Northern Arizona Audubon Society and how you can help as a volunteer can be found at http://www.nazas.org/

Ornithological Summary

This site has been documented as one of two major waterfowl use areas in Arizona during migration, particularly by dabbling ducks during spring migration. Over 2000 waterfowl were documented using this area during spring migration in the early 1990s. Although a severe drought has continued for the last several years, this site remains a significant migration stop over site for waterfowl, water birds, and wading birds during years when sufficient moisture occurs during the winter. A goodly variety of land birds also use this area as a migration/breeding area. The pinyon and juniper woodlands provide significant habitat for Pinyon Jay, and the IBA has global recogniotion for this species. The "Checklist of the Birds of Anderson Mesa, Lakes Mary, and Mormon Lake" contains 254 species recorded, approximately 48% of the official list for birds noted to occur in Arizona. 108 species are confirmed breeders. In addition to providing habitat for migrating and breeding birds, these permanent, semi-permanent lake waters and ephemeral wetlands attract many vagrant bird species as well. The natural wetland system within this IBA provides excellent habitat for migration, and on-going restoration and protection of this wetland complex will further enhance the value of this area to nesting waterfowl and wetland birds. The recent restoration work by the Arizona Game/Fish at the Long Lake Complex and at Hay Lake has enhanced the natural retention of snow and rain precipitation over 1200 acres. From a landscape perspective the Anderson Mesa IBA contains the only major wetland complex between Lake Roosevelt to the south and Lake Powell to the north- a distance of approximately 100 miles north and south, thus providing important wetland habitat, in the chain of potential stop-over sites, necessary for cross-continental migrating waterfowl to feed and rest on their travels north and south.

The extensive pinyon and juniper woodlands support populations of Pinyon Jay, a species of global conservation concern because of limited distribution in the american west and dependence on pinyon pine. Declines in pinyon pine throughout the west has caused concern about the population status of Pinyon Jay. Northern Arizona University Avian Cognition Laboratory (ACL) is dedicated to the investigation of seed-caching birds in the family Corvidae, which includes jays. The ACL was founded and is directed by Regents' Professor Russell P. Balda (http://www4.nau.edu/acl/index.htm).

Other Flora and Fauna:
Pronghorn Antelope herds are present within the IBA. These herds may be decreasing due to overgrazing and improper fencing which do not adequately protect their habitat, impact their movement, and increase predation by coyotes.

Conservation Issues

Drought is the highest threat. Precipitation for the last eight years is as follows (Flagstaff station, Avg. 22.91): a deficit of 49.52" from the normal over the last year nine years.
1995: 19.09" Deviation from normal -3.82"
1996: 11.81" Deviation from normal -11.10"
1997: 17.84" Deviation from normal -5.07"
1998: 27.35" Deviation from normal +4.46"
1999: 15.79" Deviation from normal -7.12"
2000: 15.40" Deviation from normal -7.51"
2001: 17.36" Deviation from normal -5.55"
2002: 12.89" Deviation from normal -10.02"
2003: 16.99" Deviation from normal -3.79"

Forest grazing is a threat. To control overgrazing by cattle and elk is essential. To mitigate the damage from grazing, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing to reduce somewhat the times and duration of grazing in permitted areas. Other high rated threats include, fire, and drainage. Medium severity threats include, exotic grass invasion, commercial timber harvest projects, disturbance to birds, certain recreation activities, and water transfer through surface water abstraction.

Habitat restoration is needed. Fencing wetlands against cattle and elk to conserve grasses and protect wetland habitat. Replanting some areas with native grasses is needed.

Ownership

Ownership status determined through GIS analysis. Ownership is 96% USDA Coconino National Forest, Mormon Lake Ranger District and 3.9% private land. There are 14 hectares of State Trust Lands that are less than one percent of the land ownership for this IBA.

The Arizona Trail crosses the Important Bird Area on the west side of Mormon Lake and Kinnickinick Lake.

Habitat

The central portion of the mesa is made up of plains grasslands with a grass-forb association dominated by western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii). Juniper woodlands composed of dense stands of Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma), mixed with ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). Pine woodlands are associated with depressions or drainages.

Both seasonal (Class 3) and semi-permanent (Class 4) wetlands are found on the mesa (Stewart and Kantrud 1969). Seasonal wetlands are dominated by common spikerush (Eleocharis macrostachya) and semi-permanent wetlands were wheatgrass on the periphery to hardstem bulrush (Scirpus acutus) and water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) in the deepest zone.

Other Flora and Fauna:
Pronghorn Antelope herds are present within the IBA. These herds may be decreasing due to prolonged drought conditions, loss of grassland habitat from woody plant invasion, herbaceous vegetation removal from grazing ungulates (livestock and elk) and improper fencing designs that do not adequately protect their habitat, impacts their movement, and increases their predation by coyotes.

Land Use

Research/Conservation Projects:
A large conservation project is the restoration of Hay Lake, filling in the drainage canals and channels so that 1200 acres will naturally retain water as it had previous to drainage many years ago. Lakebed grasses from Mormon Lake were planted (October 2003) along mid-shoreline of Tremaine Lake to help restore native lake grasses (spike grass). A conservation project at Horse Lake will repair/replace the existing fence by 2004 (a priority project of the Northern Arizona Bird Conservation Committee/Intermountain West Joint Venture).