Conservation News – Winter 2016-2017

This is a difficult article to sit and write. With the new presidential administration due to start in about three weeks from this writing, and based on the appointments that have been announced, great uncertainty exists for those of us who care passionately about wildlife conservation and environmental protection. Although the Audubon Society prides itself in being nonpartisan, always trying to find a middle course through the public policy minefields, we do believe in science and we are sure there are acceptable and unacceptable choices. Truth is not subjective and future generations will judge us based on the choices we make or fail to make.

It is difficult to think that there are people coming into the new government who think that science isn’t true and that the national government should have a very limited role in protecting the environment. Even worse, the Republican platform calls for the federal government to divest itself of all federal lands in the western states. For me, these are ideas that border on heresy. What are those of us who care deeply about conservation and protecting the environment to do? All I can suggest is that we fall back on that old adage, “Think Globally and Act Locally.”

Keep an eye on your local city councils and parks and recreation boards. Agendas are public documents and have to be posted in advance of meetings. Follow the issues that are important to you. The state legislature will be back in session in a couple of weeks. Surely we will all need to play defense and stop some bad bills from being enacted into law. Congress is back in session next week and there will be a new member representing the East Valley in three weeks. Write him a letter and introduce yourself.

There are a couple of lobbying days already planned at the state legislature. The annual Environmental Day is scheduled for February 15, 2017 with a theme of “Protecting the Arizona We All Share.” It will kick off at 8:30 AM in the Historic Supreme Court Chambers. Desert Rivers Audubon is a co-sponsor of this event. Other Audubon chapters are also participating. Here is how you sign-up to attend: Environmental Day at the Capitol

The second lobbying day will be the annual WRAN day at the Arizona Legislature. The date has not yet been set. Stay tuned for more details and be part of the Western Rivers Advocacy Network. Sign up for updates here: Western Rivers Action Network

Also at the state level, don’t forget to keep an eye on the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction program. This program is perpetually in danger. Sign up for updates here: Mexican Wolf Reintroduction & Management.

Mike Evans
Conservation Director

Western Rivers Action Alert!


Dear Western Rivers Advocate,

We at Audubon are deeply saddened and concerned about the recent spill of toxic material into the Animas River from the Gold King mine in Colorado. Although we understand that the EPA was attempting to do the right thing in cleaning up the wastewater from the mine when the release happened, the long-term impacts of this spill on our birds and wildlife are yet to be determined and will take years to uncover.

Take Action Today!
To learn more about the Western Rivers Action Network, visit their website here:

Here are a few more links to articles regarding conservation issues that need addressing! Please read and see if there is something you can do to help. Thanks!
Conservation fund a fight over role, reach of federal government.
Viewpoints: Congress is about to kill a key parks fund.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Burrowing Owl Habitat

In partnership with Wild At Heart, The Town of Gilbert, & ADOT, Desert Rivers Audubon installed a Burrowing Owl Habitat at Zanjero Park, 3785 S. Lindsay Rd., Gilbert. Made possible by a grant from Together Green, over 80 volunteers installed artificial burrows, built a pre-release shelter for rehabilitated burrowing owls, and monitor & interpret the habitat for the public fourth Saturdays. Check our calendar for the date and time of our next Owl Walk & Talk at the Burrowing Owl Habitat.

Our volunteer citizen scientist OwlWatchers continue to monitor the habitat and status of the released and wild burrowing owls. Contact our OwlWatch Coordinator Anne Koch if you would like to join them,

A photo log of our efforts can be seen here.

Hummingbird Habitat

Contact our Volunteer Coordinator Anne Koch to join Desert Rivers Audubon in caring for and improving the demonstration Hummingbird Habitat at Desert Breeze Park, 660 N. Desert Breeze Parkway, Chandler. We prune, plant and water every second Saturday.

Volunteers at the Hummingbird Habitat
Volunteers ready for work!

Adopt-A-Park Volunteers Honored

CHANDLER, Ariz. - Groups participating in Chandler’s Adopt-A-Park program were honored for helping keep City parks clean at a Feb. 23, 2015 City Council meeting.

Chandler has more than 60 parks and 1,200 acres of developed park land and receives help from 18 Adopt-A-Park groups or individuals. Seventeen parks (or portions of parks) have been “adopted” by local organizations or families who agree to visit their adopted park at least once a month to help keep it clean and report any condition that requires attention by City maintenance personnel.

The Desert Rivers Audubon Society spent 180 hours helping maintain the Hummingbird Habitat at Desert Breeze Park in 2014 and was recognized as the Adopt-A-Park Large Group of the Year. The Small Group of the Year award went to Natasha Thompson and Beth Werner who together spent 64.5 hours helping maintain Sunset Park in west Chandler.

Each group received award certificates and will have their names engraved on a plaque displayed in the lobby of the Chandler Community Center. Certificates of Merit were provided to all Adopt-A-Park volunteers.

Victor Peterson accepting Award
Victor Peterson accepting the award for Desert Rivers

ADOPTED PARKS (listed by park name and organization)

For more information on the Adopt-A-Park Program, call 480-782-2667, or go online to

Gilbert Riparian Preserve Feral Cats

Read Desert Rivers' report on this critical issue. To report sightings or locations of illegal feeding in the preserve, visit the Riparian Institute website, or contact the Riparian Preserve's Naturalist Jennie Rambo at or 480-797-2019. If you would like to volunteer to help with this issue, contact Desert Rivers Audubon Conservation Director Mike Evans.

Current Advocacy Campaigns

National Audubon

Create a native plant garden for birds at your place of worship.

Echinacea purpurea and American Goldfinch. Photo: Will Stuart
Echinacea purpurea and American Goldfinch. Photo: Will Stuart

Desert Rivers Audubon supports the efforts of the National Audubon Society on national conservation issues. To learn more about these campaigns, visit the National Audubon Society's Conservation page to see how you can help with nationwide conservation issues.

Regional Issues

Desert Rivers Audubon supports and is actively collaborating with Audubon Arizona, other local Audubon chapters around Arizona, a large group of other local and regional conservation organizations, and the National Audubon Society on two efforts: the Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN), Audubon's multi-state grassroots effort to protect rivers, and the adoption, implementation and stewardship of Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

To learn more about Important Bird Areas, including our own local IBA, The Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch Park, go to:

Local Issues

We are working with our local governments on a couple of issues. We have concerns about feral cats management policies in Chandler and Mesa. We are also interested in seeing a Conservation Management Plan adopted for the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch Park. We will let you know when we need additional assistance on these issues.

For those interested in additional conservation work beyond our on-going efforts with the Burrowing Owl Habitat, Hummingbird Garden, and reporting on the feral cat sightings at Gilbert's Riparian Preserve, volunteers are always needed at the two conservation areas in our area, the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch, and Veteran's Oasis Park in Chandler. Local advocacy needs will be announced at our monthly meetings or posted here on our website, on our Facebook page and in your monthly email from our Constant Contact service.

Our Desert Rivers

Photo : Mike Rupp

Verde River

With huge growth experienced over the last 10 or so years in the Prescott area, several cities are attempting to divert Verde River water into a pipeline to serve the cities’ needs, and pump more groundwater from the Big Chino aquifer- both of which could result in depletion of Verde River water to the detriment of many species that depend upon the river as it courses southward all the way to Phoenix. This seems to be an old story- most other Arizona streams and rivers have similarily been assailed by municipalities to supply their growing residential demand. Will the Verde go the route of the San Pedro River, which ran dry for the first time ever only a few years ago?

What can be done top prevent one of our last natural river systems from being ruined? See Conservation Page 2.

San Pedro River

Another Arizona river that is in imminent danger is the San Pedro River. Only one of two major rivers that flow north out of Sonora Mexico and into the Gila River, the San Pedro River is one of the last remaining un-dammed rivers in the southwestern United States.

The cottonwood-willow lined stream flows about 140 miles supporting near 350 bird species as well as providing habitat for up to 4 million migrating birds annually. Area development and the resulting groundwater pumping needed to supply these thirsty humans has resulted in an unsustainable drop in the rivers aquifer thus depriving the riparian vegetation and wildlife of its critical water source.

What is being done: The Upper San Pedro Partnership is a collaborative effort between local, state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations (including Audubon) working to develop management plans that address water conservation for the United States section of the upper San Pedro Basin. It is anticipated that retirement of irrigated agricultural land and meaningful water conservation efforts will increase stream flows in the next few years.

The Gila River

The 2004 Arizona Water Settlement Act (AWSA) was an act of congress that addressed the outstanding and senior water rights of Arizona’s tribal entities and issues of water rights to Central Arizona Project Water Rights. The settlement of the tribal claims is considered environmentally sound as existing water infrastructure would be repaired thus increasing water effiency for tribal interests.

Also in the AWSA, are provisions to guarantee New Mexico’s claim to Colorado River water. This was accomplished by trading 14,000 acre-feet of Gila River water for New Mexico’s Cap claim. Translated, this trade allows New Mexico to construct infrastructure to store Gila River water that would normally flow down the river channel thus depriving the riverine system of much of its natural flow. The construction of the proposed off-stream reservoir to store this water is on Mangas Creek in the New Mexico Gila River watershed. Many environmental groups urged all federal and state governmental agencies, Congress and the New Mexico Legislature to oppose this poorly designed project. The proposed dam and pump station facilities and water distribution (see Conservation Page 2)