“I commend all who have come together to protect this rare and fragile riparian forest. The number one national ranking shows others also treasure Arizona’s San Pedro River and as a result, this natural resource will be preserved for generations to come.”
-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
“The San Pedro River is a potent symbol of the American West. As one of the West’s last free-flowing rivers, it is the life source for Southeastern Arizona’s amazingly diverse wildlife, its citizens, and the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca. I am deeply encouraged by the vision exercised by the Forest Service in its decision to protect this critical waterway and landscape for Arizona’s future.”
-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
"The importance of the San Pedro River ecosystem to the Southwest was validated by its selection as the number-one Forest Legacy Program project in the nation by the national review panel. The funding of this project is an important addition to collaborative efforts to sustain and enhance the San Pedro River watershed."
-Regional forester, Southwestern region of the U.S. Forest Service Corbin Newman
President Barack Obama’s recently released 2010 budget request includes funding to help conserve an iconic piece of Arizona—the San Pedro River and the riparian forest along its banks.
Through an extensive review process, the U.S. Forest Service determined the strong ecological values of the San Pedro River Ecosystem Project deserved the highest funding priority in its Forest Legacy Program.
The San Pedro River provides a migratory corridor of hemispheric importance that supports nearly half of all bird species found in the United States, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The river valley also is home to a variety of native fish and other wildlife including beaver, bighorn sheep, coatimundi, fox, bobcat, and mountain lion.
Working in partnership with state agencies, the Forest Legacy Program supports efforts to protect privately owned forest lands. The program focuses on ecologically important areas that also have a high potential of being developed.
The San Pedro River Ecosystem Project, located outside of Cascabel in Cochise County, will conserve 694 acres of riparian forest. The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, Arizona State Forestry Division, Arizona Game and Fish Department, local landowners and other interest holders joined forces to ensure this irreplaceable landscape endures for future generations.
About 40 miles east of Tucson, the project contributes to the success of a larger effort that has protected more than 65,000 acres in the San Pedro watershed. With threats such as fractured landscapes, groundwater pumping, and climate change, the project is a priority not only for the U.S. Forest Service, but for the community at large.
A key element of the project will be made possible thanks to several landowners who are willing to place conservation easements, which are voluntary land-use agreements, on their property to protect the natural values of their land in perpetuity, while enabling them to remain on or continue to ranch the land.
Arizona’s forests span roughly 27 percent of the state, but riparian forests along perennial water—such as the area protected in the San Pedro River Ecosystem Forest Legacy Project—are the rarest, most threatened and ecologically important forest type in the state.
“This is an opportunity to protect Arizona’s most valuable resource, our water supply,” said Patrick Graham, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “For us to realize a sustainable future we must all work to protect the lands and waters that we rely so heavily upon for a healthy environment and a healthy economy.April 18, 2012