Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Upper Verde River COA

This Important Bird Area (IBA) consists of 1,800 acres of quality riparian habitats along the Upper Verde River and Lower Granite Creek in Chino Valley. Most of the area (1,152 acres) falls within the Upper Verde River Wildlife Area. The wildlife area contains the headwaters of the Verde River, a lush low to mid-elevation riparian forest, riparian floodplains, cliffs, and adjacent uplands dominated by Pinyon-Juniper forest.

Historically, the area is home to one of the most diverse native fish populations in Arizona. In addition to supporting rare/priority riparian breeding bird species, it also serves as an important stopover and/or wintering grounds for a host of migratory birds. These lush environs have been designated critical habitat for several species including northern Mexican gartersnake, southwestern willow flycatcher, and western yellow-billed cuckoo. Like most other lotic systems in Arizona, the Upper Verde is threatened by groundwater pumping, drought, and shifting habitat conditions due to climate change. On-going management and habitat restoration is required to maintain the quality riparian habitats the diversity of taxa rely on.

Conservation Goals

  • Balance environmental stewardship with responsible outdoor recreation.
  • Reduce invasive species that may impair riparian habitats and restore with native species.
  • Improve groundwater management to protect wetlands and other aquatic systems for wildlife.
  • Manage Wildlife Area habitats for a broad diversity of self-sustaining game and nongame species, and for recreational activities including wildlife viewing and hiking.
  • Protect both current and potential values for TES species, sensitive stream and riparian habitats, fish, waterfowl, big game, small game, and nongame species with primary emphasis on TES species and their habitats.
  • Improve management of livestock to restrict from the riparian area.
  • Identify and conserve areas known as stopover and breeding habitats for migratory birds and support their full life-cycle conservation through international collaborations that address threats to their migration and wintering habitats in Mexico, Central America and beyond.


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

6. Energy Production and Mining

6.2: Mining and quarrying
6.3: Renewable energy

7. Human Intrusions and Disturbance

7.1: Recreational activities

9. Natural System Modifications

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

Potential Conservation Actions

2. Land and Water Management

2.1: Site/area management
  • Implement projects focused on improving the quality of altered systems creating suitable habitat and/or habitat features for wildlife.
2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Monitor aquatic and terrestrial non-native species and their impacts to the aquatic ecosystem and develop appropriate management actions to eliminate or control such species.
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Improve, restore, or maintain high quality aquatic habitat to support SCGN aquatic species. Develop and maintain refuge habitats.
  • Reduce depletion of groundwater levels to improve aquatic resources. Improve habitats to retain existing water.

3. Species Management

3.1: Management of specific species of concern
  • Managing specific plant and animal populations of concern.
3.2: Species recovery
  • Manipulating, enhancing or restoring specific plant and animal populations, vaccination programs.

4. Education and Awareness

4.3: Awareness and communication
  • Increase awareness of effects of specific threats (ie. climate change, recreation activities) on wildlife species and habitats with an emphasis on how the threats can be reduced.

5. Law and Policy

5.2: Policies and regulations
  • Work with local governments and organizations to improve groundwater policies to protect the riparian habitats.

7. External Capacity Building

7.2: Alliance and partnership development
  • Work with partners to develop practical water offsets and other programs to maintain surface water flow and reduce groundwater pumping.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Arizona Toad, Lowland Leopard Frog


Abert's Towhee, American Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Arizona Bell's Vireo, Common Black Hawk, Juniper Titmouse, Lucy's Warbler, Pinyon Jay, Scott's Oriole, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Sora, Golden Eagle, Lazuli Bunting, Painted Redstart, Virginia Rail, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Western Wood-Pewee


Southwestern River Otter, Pale Townsend's Big-eared Bat, Spotted Bat, Arizona Myotis, Cave Myotis


Mexican Gartersnake, Sonora Mud Turtle, Narrow-headed Gartersnake


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • Upper Verde River Wildlife Area (AZGFD)

Potential Partners

  • Prescott Audubon Society
  • Prescott National Forest
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Friends of Verde River
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Quail Forever/Pheasants Forever
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Triangle NRCD
  • Chino Winds NRCD
  • Sierra Club

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs