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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : commentary April 29, 2016

4/6/2013 1:09:00 PM
My Turn: Ten reasons to protect the Verde
Gary Beverly

The Verde River is a green artery pulsing through the heart of Arizona, a jewel of the Southwest. Here are 10 reasons we should protect the Verde:

Economy: The Verde sustains over 700 jobs and over $100 million in economic value in the Verde Valley, plus 40 percent of the Phoenix area water supply. Natural areas are proven to benefit local economies.

Quality of Life: Clean air, unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, and opportunities to view wildlife enhance our daily living.

Recreation: As our population grows, we require more recreational area. The Upper Verde is a wonderful place for people to hike, hunt, fish, camp, backpack, kayak, canoe, view wildlife, photograph, ride horses, climb rocks, and observe birds.

Scenic: Primal colors and spectacular rock formations create scenery second to none in the state — red rocks, green plants, blue sky, white clouds. To see what I mean, visit www.cwagaz.org and look at the photo gallery.

Cultural & Historic: The entire river corridor is laced with ancient rock art, campsites, structures, and artifacts revealing the historical lifestyle of Native Americans. The river and its springs are an essential spiritual and cultural foundation for the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Also, remnants of early Arizona ranching history dot the canyon.

Wildlife: Although the Verde River watershed comprises only 5.8 percent of the land area in Arizona, it contains the best remaining riparian areas — lush, green ribbons full of life. The Verde supports a surprisingly large fraction of Arizona’s vertebrate species: 78 percent of breeding bird species, 89 percent of bat and carnivore species, 83 percent of native ungulate species, and 76 percent of reptiles and amphibian genera — an impressive concentration of wildlife. The Verde River, the lifeblood of the watershed, is essential life support for most of Arizona’s wildlife species, a heritage we all share.

Endangered Species: The Verde supports a rich and diverse variety of plants, animals, and fish, including a score of threatened, endangered, and watched species. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides critical habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The yellow-billed cuckoo and the candidate Mexican garter snake will be listed soon. Additional species of concern include garter snakes and the lowland leopard frog. Arizona supports a resident population of over 60 breeding pairs of majestic bald eagles. Over 300 eagles overwinter here, and many nest on the Verde; five chicks have fledged at Del Rio Springs in the last three years.

Native Fish: Of Arizona’s original 33 native fish, the ESA protects 17 and three are extinct. Many surviving native fish live in the Verde, one of the best remaining native fish streams in the state. The Upper Verde is critical habitat for the spikedace, loach minnow, and razorback sucker. The roundtail chub will be added to the list this year. Now rare throughout the Southwest, Sonora and desert suckers are abundant in the Verde.

Moral: Because we exploit our forests, rivers, and land for the resources that support our society, some environmental degradation is inevitable. Our challenge is to manage this rich and amazing world sustainably so our kids, and their children, can also live comfortably and enjoy nature and wildlife. We can learn from our local Native Americans, the Yavapai Apache Nation in Camp Verde. Monica Marquez, a Yavapai, told me: “Water is Life. You never take it all.” Vince Randall, past tribal chairman, asks: “When are you going to learn to share with all living things? When will you learn the true meaning of stewardship? Will it be when there is only one of you left?”

Unique: Of Arizona’s six major perennial rivers, the Gila, Salt, and Santa Cruz Rivers have been consumed by dams and groundwater pumping, the Colorado is fully diverted and no longer flows to the Gulf of California, and the San Pedro is struggling for life. The Verde River is the longest surviving living river in Arizona.

But for most citizens, the upper Verde River, tucked away deep within the Prescott National Forest between Paulden and Clarkdale, is remote, unknown, and under appreciated. The upper Verde’s future is clouded — unmitigated groundwater mining in the Big Chino Valley will convert 25 miles of a living river into a dead, dry wash. I believe that we are smart enough to live here responsibly, enjoying a comfortable lifestyle while protecting our natural areas and our wildlife. The question remains: Do we have the political will?

Gary Beverly is education committee chair for the Citizens Water Advocacy Group and a retired business man working to protect the Verde River.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Article comment by: Gary Beverly

@Few more reasons:
Thanks adding a few more facts, all are correct. I usually mention this but I hit the word limit...

Great comment! I know you Verde Valley folks first think of the river you see every day. I live near the headwaters of the Verde so the upper Verde is an important concern to me. Please consider that a third of the base flow in the Verde Valley is from Verde Springs, which is deeply threatened by groundwater mining. And don't forget that the reach upstream of Clarkdale is some of the finest riparian habitat in the state.

Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013
Article comment by: Doe This Mean Reduce Water Use...

In Yavapai County by all gov (fed, state,local),
businesses, agriculture, gold courses,

Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013
Article comment by: Few more reasons to love the Verde

This little river is a world-class nesting habitat for birds.

A 1974 report in American Zoologist reported the Verde’s riparian corridor supports one of the highest population densities (number per acre) and diversity (number of different breeds) of noncolonial nesting birds (those that nest in pairs rather than large groups) found in the world.

According to the USFWS, the riparian habitat along Southwestern desert streams like the Verde contains the highest density and diversity of bird species outside of tropical rain forests.

The Verde River lifezone is capable producing more than 100 times as much living matter as other parts of Arizona's desert. The Arizona Game and Fish Department estimates that more than 75% of all the state's native wildlife species depend on riparian areas like the Verde for at least some portion of their life cycle.

Posted: Saturday, April 6, 2013
Article comment by: Kayo Parsons-Korn

Thank you Gary for this well written piece on the Verde River. So often I read letters that represent SRP as this evil monster intent on preserving all of the Verde River for their constituents. Keep the Verde for the Verde Valley is the rally cry... But what these people fail to see is this wild and scenic river that runs between Camp Verde and the first of SRP's dams. Do we want to see this wild and scenic river stop after it leaves the Verde Valley? What of the riparian areas and wildlife that exists below our valley? Do we not care about the river below our valley?

Yes, Phoenix needs to do a better job of saving water. But so do we. Saving this precious resource is all our responsibility and we all need to work together. Prescott, the Verde Valley and SRP's customers in the Valley of the Sun.

Wise use of water and conservation is our responsibilities no matter where we live. And sharing that water with wildlife and riparian habitats all along a river's course should also be our responsibility.

Do we want to see the Verde go the way of the San Pedro and Santa Cruz? Because it will if we don't act now.

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