Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Salt-Verde Ecosystem COA

This COA comprises a large perennial stretch of the Verde River from Beasley Flats to Fort Mcdowell, that includes the confluence of Fossil Creek, Horseshoe Reservoir, and Bartlett Lake, and the Salt River from Roosevelt Lake to Saguaro Lake. The entire area is within the Salt and Verde Riparian Ecosystem Important Bird Area (IBA). River banks of the Verde River consist of dense belts of native broadleaf riparian and aquatic graminoid species, intermingled with non-native tamarisk. Roughly 15 miles of the northern portions of the COA have been designated as “Wild River” under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and is important habitat for multiple SGNC breeding and migratory birds. Areas south of Horseshoe Reservoir are dominated by salt cedar and other early-successional invasive species, due to the fluctuating flow rates from Horseshoe Dam. Riparian areas along the Salt River stretch consist of similar broadleaf riparian, but holds a higher density of invasive species such as salt cedar. Additionally, the Wild River designated stretch contains roughly one-third of all bald eagle nesting areas in Arizona. Portions of this COA run through the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation.

Conservation Goals

  • Improve important riparian habitat for SGCN species through streamflow improvements and habitat restoration.
  • Reduce invasive species encroachment that could reduce the availability of above-ground and below-ground water for wildlife and native plant species.
  • Maintain healthy species populations through monitoring, relevant conservation actions, reintroductions and habitat improvements.


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

5. Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites

5: Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites

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

9.2: Dams and water management

Potential Conservation Actions

2. Land and Water Management

2.1: Site/area management
  • Construct exclosures to protect known areas for breeding populations of birds from livestock.
2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Conduct monitoring and targeted removal efforts to limit establishment and spread of giant reed, ludwigia, cocklebur, and multiple non-native forbs.
  • Remove salt cedar within riparian areas and replace with native broadleaf riparian plants.
  • Reduce fuels loads in anticipation for large standing dead monocultures of salt cedar due to the tamarisk leaf-beetle.

3. Species Management

3.1: Management of specific species of concern
  • Implement long-term monitoring protocols for SGCN marsh bird species, including Ridgway’s rail.
  • Implement long-term monitoring protocols for native species and habitats to inform adaptive management.
3.2: Species recovery
  • Improve habitat for riparian obligate SGCN such as western yellow-billed cuckoo.

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.).

7. External Capacity Building

7.2: Alliance and partnership development
  • Fund or work with partners to conduct conservation-related species research for both SGCN aquatic species such as roundtail chub, or important game species like American pronghorn.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Lowland Leopard Frog, Sonoran Desert Toad


American Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Costa's Hummingbird, Elf Owl, Golden Eagle, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Verdin, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Allen's Lappet-browed Bat, Big Free-tailed Bat, California Leaf-nosed Bat, Cave Myotis, Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Pale Townsend's Big-eared Bat, Southwestern Myotis, Yuma Myotis


Gila Monster, Sonora Mud Turtle, Sonoran Coralsnake, Sonoran Desert Tortoise, Mexican Gartersnake


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • Fossil Springs Wilderness
  • Fossil Creek
  • Horseshoe Reservoir
  • Verde Wild River Area
  • Bartlett Lake

Potential Partners

  • Audubon Southwest
  • US Forest Service
  • Friends of Verde River
  • Salt River Project
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs