Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Lower San Pedro River COA

The Lower San Pedro River is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) for its diversity of avian species. The COA is especially notable for its robust population of southwestern willow flycatchers and western yellow-billed cuckoos. Home to some of the only perennial water in this area of the Sonoran Desert, the Lower San Pedro River attracts a multitude of wildlife species which rely on this riparian habitat year-round. Portions of the river offer mature stands of cottonwood and willows and the river acts as a vital movement corridor for seasonal and annual migrations for birds and mammals. Much of the area is under threat due to groundwater pumping and the intrusion of invasive species such as salt cedar. Trespass cattle is an additional concern for their ability to significantly harm these sensitive riparian habitats.

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.
  • Ensure groundwater pumping does not adversely affect the subflow zone.
  • Improve management of livestock to restrict from the riparian area.


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

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

Potential Conservation Actions

2. Land and Water Management

2.1: Site/area management
  • Adequately staff conservation areas to improve management.
  • Identify and monitor existing and potential mining effluent.
2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Improve management of trespass livestock that can damage the sensitive riparian habitats.
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Remove invasive salt cedar and restore habitats with native trees.
  • Work with partners and private landowners to maintain/improve surface water for wildlife.
  • Increase connectivity by removing barriers and impediments to species movement. Modify pasture and boundary fences to meet wildlife-friendly criteria to allow safe wildlife movement or provide wildlife crossing structures to minimize wildlife/vehicle collisions.
  • Research possibility of American beaver reintroduction to restore natural riparian system function and increase habitat heterogeneity.

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
  • Facilitate and fund collaborative organizations to improve coordinated management of the watershed.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Couch's Spadefoot, Lowland Leopard Frog, Woodhouse's Toad


Abert's Towhee, Arizona Bell's Vireo, Common Black Hawk, Elf Owl, Gould's Turkey, Gray Hawk, Lucy's Warbler, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Swainson's Hawk, Western Screech-Owl, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Zone-tailed Hawk


American Beaver, Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Ocelot, Pale Townsend's Big-eared Bat, Western Spotted Skunk, Western Red Bat, White-nosed Coati, Western White-throated Woodrat, Yuma Myotis


Gila Monster, Ornate Box Turtle, Sonoran Spotted Whiptail


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • Lower San Pedro River Wildlife Areas (AZGFD)
  • Three Links Farm (TNC)
  • Cooks Lake/San Pedro River Preserve (USBR)

Potential Partners

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Audubon Southwest
  • Tucson Audubon Society
  • US Bureau of Reclamation
  • Salt River Project
  • Sonoran Joint Venture
  • Arizona Land and Water Trust
  • BHP-Billiton

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs