Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Agua Fria Riparian Corridor COA

This COA consists of two important conservation areas, the Agua Fria National Monument and the Agua Fria Riparian Corridor Important Bird Area (IBA). The Agua Fria National Monument consists of more than 70,000-acres of semi-desert grassland mesas with patches of chaparral, mesquite, and desert riparian communities. A number of wells and watering tanks create local micro-habitats and contribute to the areas vital habitat diversity.

The IBA is restricted to the deeply cut canyons of the Agua Fria River and its tributaries. In the lower reaches of the Agua Fria (near Black Canyon City), the riparian forest is dominated by Fremont cottonwood and Goodding’s willow. In the upper reaches of the river, Arizona ash and Arizona sycamore become the dominant riparian trees. This extensive riparian woodland provides both breeding and wintering habitat for a number of bird species and constitutes a recently discovered migration route paralleling the one along the Verde River. It supports one of the higher densities of nesting western yellow-billed cuckoos in Arizona along with other SGCN birds, including breeding common black hawk, Arizona Bell’s vireo, juniper titmouse, and Lucy’s warbler.

Conservation Goals

  • Maintain surface water quality and quantity in flowing portions of the Agua Fria River.
  • Maintain riparian vegetation communities within their range of natural variability to maintain and improve wildlife habitat, and to make these communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
  • Improve native vegetation and soil recovery in fire affected areas.
  • Remove invasive grasses and forbs to help reduce likelihood and size of wildfire.


Primary Threats

1. Agriculture

1.3: Livestock farming and ranching

3. Climate Change and Severe Weather

3.1: Habitat shifting and alteration
3.2: Droughts
3.3: Temperature extremes
3.4: Storms and flooding

4. Residential and Commercial Development

4.3: Tourism and recreation areas

5. Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites

5: Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites

8. Invasive and Other Problematic Species

8.1: Invasive non-native species

9. Natural System Modifications

9.1: Fire and fire suppression
9.2: Dams and water management

Potential Conservation Actions

1. Land and Water Protection

1.2: Resource and habitat protection
  • Develop conservation easements on public or private lands in order to maintain and protect wildlife corridors and buffer quality wildlife habitat.

2. Land and Water Management

2.1: Site/area management
  • Continue maintenance and expand wildlife waters to mitigate drought and the effects of temperature extremes.
  • Reduce latter fuel loads from invasive grasses and forbs.
2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Conduct monitoring and targeted removal efforts to limit establishment and spread of tamarisk, black mustard, stinknet, Malta starthistle, cocklebur, and multiple non-native forbs.
  • Monitor and implement conservation strategies as it relates to the prevention and spread of chytrid fungus.
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Identify and protect wildlife corridors essential to the movement of species between high-quality habitat blocks.

4. Education and Awareness

4.3: Awareness and communication
  • Develop outreach programs for the public on impacts to wildlife and recreation from introduced species.
  • Incorporate citizen science programs to identify distribution of invasives (SEEDN, iMapInvasives, etc.).

5. Law and Policy

5.2: Policies and regulations
  • Work with local governments to incorporate wildlife protections and habitat connectivity into general plans.

7. External Capacity Building

7.1: Institutional and civil society development (i.e. land trusts)
  • Fund or work with partners to conduct conservation-related species research for both SGCN aquatic species such as the roundtail chub, or important game species like the American pronghorn.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Arizona Toad, Lowland Leopard Frog


American Peregrine Falcon, Arizona Bell's Vireo, Bullock's Oriole, Common Black Hawk, Golden Eagle, Hooded Oriole, Sora, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Western Burrowing Owl, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Zone-tailed Hawk


Richinbar Talussnail


Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Pallid Bat, American Pronghorn


Black-necked Gartersnake, Gila Monster, Sonoran Desert Tortoise, Sonora Mud Turtle, Mexican Gartersnake


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • Horseshoe Ranch

Potential Partners

  • Audubon Southwest
  • Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Sonoran Joint Venture
  • US Forest Service
  • JH Cattle Company
  • Maricopa County Parks and Recreation
  • AZ Department of Transportation

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs