View of the Upper Verde River, a stream of water with elevated vegetation on either side.
Upper Verde River Verde River canyon in the Upper Verde Valley Project, Arizona. © Harold E. Malde


The Nature Conservancy in Arizona Awarded $11.5M for Upper Verde River Conservation and Grassland Protection

Media Contacts

The Nature Conservancy in Arizona (TNC) announced today it received an $11.5 million federal grant to lead critical land and water conservation efforts in the Upper Verde River Watershed and Big Chino Grasslands in northcentral Arizona. The grant requires a 50% nonfederal match that TNC Arizona and partners will provide, for a total of $23 million in project funding. Additional implementation funds are included in the total grant award to support partners in several ways to achieve success.

The Verde River is one of Arizona’s last flowing rivers. Imbalanced water use, wildfire impacts, and drought are straining the river, and flows are now at historic lows. The Big Chino Aquifer is a primary water source for the Verde, supporting diverse fish, birds, mammals, and other wildlife and also a critical source of water for drinking, agriculture, and recreation for the Verde Valley and Phoenix Metro Area’s nearly 5 million residents.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) $1 billion Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which promotes conservation projects through public-private partnerships.

“We are thrilled to have received such a sizeable grant from the USDA NRCS to continue our conservation work on the Verde River, whose preservation is not only vital for wildlife but also for agriculture operations and Arizona communities downstream,” said TNC Arizona State Director Daniel Stellar. “Our work along the Verde River has focused on innovative solutions with private industry, farmers and ranchers, landowners, communities, and government agencies, and this grant will bolster that work.”

TNC Arizona will use the funding to purchase conservation easements from willing landowners on up to 20,000 acres, which will allow land to be preserved in perpetuity for sustainable agricultural uses while preventing development and limiting groundwater use.

“The ancestral lands of the Yavapai and Apache People include Big Chino Grasslands and Verde River both of which run through the heart of our Reservation.  The health and vitality of the Verde River and its springs remain critical to the Nation’s culture and identity as well as the economic and farming lifeways of the Nation.   This project will help ensure long-term protection of the river through collaborative conservation investments by many partners,” said Yavapai-Apache Nation Chairwoman Tanya Lewis. 

TNC Arizona has been successfully implementing conservation easements and other solutions along the Verde since 2012, with a goal of enhancing flows in the Verde River.

We are grateful to have received support for the grant from U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly. “The Verde River is an ecological treasure and an important drinking water source. I’m proud to have helped secure federal funding that will allow The Nature Conservancy to work with farmers and ranchers to protect wildlife habitat, conserve water, and support agriculture in northern Arizona,” said Senator Kelly.  

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 77 countries and territories (41 by direct conservation impact and 36 through partners) through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on X.