Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Gila River COA

This COA comprises a perennial stretch of the Gila River between Kelvin Bridge and the eastern border of Gila River Indian Community. Water quality and quantity is heavily impacted due to pumping, agriculture, mining, and continued residential development. Salt cedar is the dominant vegetation along the riparian corridor, with some less disturbed portions containing denser pockets of native broadleaf riparian and marsh habitats. Pockets of native habitat support nesting populations of marsh birds and migratory birds, such as the yellow-billed cuckoo and Yuma Ridgway's rail. Unmanaged human use threatens to disturb nesting birds, and continued riparian degradation could result in damaging surface flow changes.

Conservation Goals

  • Remove invasive species such as salt cedar and restore native stands of cottonwood and willows to improve habitat quality and reduce wildfire potential.
  • Maintain and increase surface water quality and quantity to improve rare riparian habitats for wildlife, both common and SGCN.


Primary Threats

1. Agriculture

1.1: Annual and perennial nontimber crops
1.3: Livestock farming and ranching

3. Climate Change and Severe Weather

3.1: Habitat shifting and alteration
3.2: Droughts
3.4: Storms and flooding

7. Human Intrusions and Disturbance

7.1: Recreational activities

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

10. Pollution

10.1: Household sewage and urban waste water
10.2: Industrial and military effluents
10.3: Agricultural and forestry effluents

Potential Conservation Actions

2. Land and Water Management

2.1: Site/area management
  • Identify and monitor existing and potential mining and agriculture effluent.
2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Remove salt cedar from the stream channels and replace with native broadleaf riparian trees such as cottonwood and willows where applicable.
  • Reduce salt cedar fuels loads in anticipation for large standing dead monocultures of salt cedar due to the tamarisk leaf-beetle.
  • Remove apple snails from waterways to improve upon wetland ecosystems.
  • Remove salt cedar from semi-xeric uplands and replace with mesquite and palo verde.
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Work with partners and private landowners to maintain/improve surface water for wildlife.
  • Restore marsh habitat for breeding marsh birds, such as the Yuma Ridgway's rail.
  • Engage in partnerships with nearby agricultural and mining operations for potential water sources and mitigation conservation efforts.

3. Species Management

3.1: Management of specific species of concern
  • Restore and improve riparian habitats to support populations of southwestern willow flycatchers, western yellow-billed cuckoos, lowland leopard frogs, and other SGCN.

5. Law and Policy

5.4: Compliance and enforcement
  • Improve enforcement of laws and regulations to reduce irresponsible recreational use (e.g. OHV and dumping) that can impair riparian habitats.

7. External Capacity Building

7.2: Alliance and partnership development
  • Form partnerships with other conservation groups and concerned citizens to improve upon portions of the river channel and create a more connected river system.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Abert's Towhee, American Kestrel, American Peregrine Falcon, American Pipit, Bald Eagle, Bendire's Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow, Common Gallinule, Eared Grebe, Harris's Hawk, Hooded Oriole, Horned Lark, Loggerhead Shrike, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Swainson's Hawk, Western Grebe, Western Burrowing Owl


American Beaver


Sonoran Desert Tortoise


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • No associated Protected Areas

Potential Partners

  • Gila River Indian Community
  • AZ Department of Transportation
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Quail Forever/Pheasants Forever
  • Salt River Project
  • Audubon Southwest
  • City of Coolidge
  • Town of Florence

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs

  • No associated Aquatic COAs