Important Bird Areas

Salt and Verde Riparian Ecosystem

Arizona

This IBA is comprised of sections of two large rivers, the Salt and the Verde, that come together just east of Phoenix. The Salt River section extends from Saguaro Lake's Stewart Mountain Dam, along the riparian corridor of the Salt River west to the confluence with the Verde River, and the Verde River section is the riparian corridor from Childs, AZ to its confluence with the Salt River. The northern most 15 miles have been designated as a "Wild River", under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This stretch of river is within the large designated U.S. Forest Service Mazatzal Wilderness, the largest forest Wilderness in Arizona. The Bartlett and Horseshoe Reservoirs (part of the Verde River), are operated by the Salt River Project, Inc. Maricopa Audubon Society conducts the Salt and Verde River Christmas Bird Count that includes a portion of this IBA. Information about how to volunteer through Maricopa Audubon Society is available at their web site. http://www.maricopaaudubon.org/volunteer.htm

Ornithological Summary

This IBA contains about approximately 1/3 of all Bald Eagle nest areas in the state of Arizona (13/42 in 2003). The Yellow-billed Cuckoo nests in the IBA, as well good numbers of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers (19 individuals detected, 11 territories in 2003). Lucy's Warbler, Abert's Towhee, and Common Black-Hawk are known to occur in the IBA from birder reports, all are species of conservation status. Much more ornithological work needs to be accomplished to fully document the species of conservation status who have breeding, wintering, or in passage populations in this mostly remote and large federal wilderness containing IBA.

Conservation Issues

Livestock grazing is a key stressor affecting the under-story and mid-story avian habitat along the Verde River. Recreation uses, including boating on the lakes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), have the potential to disturb nesting birds, particularly Bald Eagles, Common Black-Hawks, cuckoos, and the Endangered population of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs), have impacted flood plain vegetation and caused erosion. Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service have a Bald Eagle nestwatch program and implement seasonal closures to the public during the eagle nesting period. Seasonal off-highway vehicle patrols and public awareness campaigns sponsored by both agencies and the Maricopa County Sheriff are efforts to stem the impacts of off-trail vehicle use.

Ownership

The 12-mile Salt River arm is located entirely within the Tonto National Forest, except the last 3 miles (downstream), which are bounded on the north side by the Salt River Indian Reservation. The upper 64 miles of the Verde River are within the Tonto National Forest (except for the upper most 3 miles, on the east side, which are Coconino National Forest lands). Downstream from the National Forest, the river passes through the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation (11 miles), and the Salt River Indian Reservation (southern most 3 miles).

Habitat

Fremont Cottonwood/Goodding?s Willow/Arizona Ash are the dominant riparian species present in the floodplain habitat type. Velvet mesquite, saguaro, blue palo verde, foothills palo verde, and ironwood are the dominant trees of the uplands (in the lower section). At the northern reach of the Verde River, the riparian habitat is composed of Sycamore, Arizona Ash, Arizona Walnut, and Arizona Alder.

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