Arizona Partners in Flight

Conservation Planning for Riparian Habitat

Following are the meeting minutes from our November 18, 1997 Riparian Conservation Planning Meeting. We were able to fine-tune much of our previous information and will be using the Riparian section of the Bird Conservation Plan as a model for our other habitats. Thank you to all who participated!

I will be sending out the 2nd draft of the Bird Conservation Plan in late December or early January. Since the document is quite large, and costly to send by mail, I will not be sending out a copy to all members. If you are willing to critically review some or all of the plan, please notify me by email or by telephone so that I may get a copy to you. I will expect comments back from everyone that requests a copy. My email address is and my phone number is (602) 789-3757.

Present: Margie Latta, Troy Corman, Carol Beardmore, Dave Seery, Terry Frederick, Thetis Gamberg, Diane Laush, Susan Sferra, Jackie Record, Tracy McCarthey, Barbara Raulston, Bruce Palmer, Frank Baucom, Marty Jakle, Cathy Taylor, Sheridan Stone, Bill Burger, Susi MacVean

Thanks to Susi MacVean and Troy Corman for their help with the high elevation riparian minutes and to Jackie Record and Carol Beardmore for the low elevation riparian minutes. THANKS!!

Guest Speaker: Dave Seery, from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Dave gave us some background information about the NRCS and then spoke specifically about several of their habitat incentives programs that have evolved from the 1996 Farm Bill.

1. Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private lands. It provides both technical assistance and cost-share payments to help establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat.

In addition, if the landowner agrees, cooperating State wildlife agencies and nonprofit or private organizations may provide expertise or additional funding to help complete the project.

Cost-Share Assistance


WHIP Funding

Six Priority Areas for the WHIP Program in Arizona

Riparian, Endangered species, Bat habitat, Wildlife water, Wetlands, Elk habitat (not in order of importance). Areas are ranked and then selected through a set of criteria. Bonus points are given for endangered species. Cost is also a factor. More expensive is less likely to be selected. A conservation plan is developed with the land owner and then implemented. NRCS handles the consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) if endangered species are present on the land. There may be several things going in the overall conservation plan with WHIP guidelines being used on only a part of it.

Although there are priority habitats, non priority habitats are not excluded. State lands can be used but preferably those that would benefit private land. Over 110 applications have already been accepted. The WHIP program is brand new, and was only announced in late October 1997. For more information: contact any NRCS field offices or visit the website at

Other NRCS Programs:

2. Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) - aimed at production agriculture land. Established in the 1996 Farm Bill to provide a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers who face serious threats to soil, water, and related natural resources. Nationally, it provides technical, financial, and educational assistance primarily in designated priority areas-half of it targeted to livestock-related natural resource concerns and the remainder to other significant conservation priorities.


Cost Share Assistance


EQIP Funding

3. Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) - a voluntary program to restore and protect wetlands on private property. It is an opportunity for landowners to receive financial incentives to enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal agricultural land.

This is a huge program nation-wide. The program is only for restoring wetlands, existing wetlands needing protection DO NOT fit this program. The landowners who choose to participate in WRP may sell a conservation easement or enter into a cost-share agreement with UDSA to restore and protect wetlands. The landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land, yet retains private ownership. The landowner and NRCS develop a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.

Three WRP Plans

1. Permanent Easement Plan: In exchange for restoring this wetland, NRCS will buy an easement from the landowner at 100% of the cost of the land and NRCS will pay for all restoration costs. The landowner will still own the land and must pay taxes. Landowner can still hunt and fish on the land and graze on a permitted basis under special circumstances.

2. 30-year easement Plan: Easement payments are 75 percent of what would be paid for a permanent easement. USDA also pays 75 percent of restoration costs.

3. Restoration Cost-Share Agreement: Generally for a minimum of 10 years, agreement to re-establish degraded or lost wetland habitat. USDA pays 75 percent of the cost of the restoration activity. This does not place an easement on the property. The landowner provides the restoration site without reimbursement.


4. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Administered by Farm Service Agency. The purpose of this program is to take agriculture production land out of production. This may not be very realistic for Arizona's Agricultural land. Contractual for 10 years. Pay soil rental rate. Good nation-wide plan but not great in AZ because they may not pay enough per acre.

These programs were met with great optimism and created some good discussion. We look forward to hearing about the success stories in the near future. Thank you Dave Seery for bringing us up-to-date on the latest NRCS programs.


The large group was divided into Low Elevation Riparian and High Elevation Riparian subgroups.

Each group had the following tasks:

1. Review the priority species that were previously selected and add or delete species based on more recent information.

2. Review Biological Objectives for each species and:

a. State why this is our objective

b. Identify the assumption(s)

c. Explain how we will evaluate our success or progress


Priority Species Review


There are currently 4 priority species in the High Elevation Riparian habitat section. The original thought process was to select species that not only scored high in the prioritization process, but also would represent different structural components in the habitat.

Why were some high ranking species left off? For example: Veery- we just have one population that may not breed every year. This would not be a good representative. Swainson's Thrush- pretty local, not always in riparian. Again, not a good representative for high elevation riparian.

Troy expressed concern that the sycamore riparian areas in southeastern Arizona were not well represented with the current list of priority species. He suggested that we consider adding Elegant Trogon as this representative. We agreed and then generated the following list of associate species: Sulphur Bellied Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Dusky-Capped Flycatcher, Blue-Throated Hummingbird, White-Eared Hummingbird, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager.

The current list of associate species for the SW Willow Flycatcher were for low elevation riparian. The following list was generated for high elevation riparian associates: Brewer's Blackbird, American Robin, Swainson's Thrush, Gray Catbird, Dusky Flycatcher, MacGillivray's Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Lincoln's Sparrow, Red-naped Sapsucker.

Red-faced Warbler associate species were also revised- remove Townsend's Warbler; add Dark-Eyed Junco, Townsend's Solitaire, Orange-crowned Warbler, Mexican Spotted Owl, Green-tailed Towhee, MacGillivray's Warbler, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-naped Sapsucker, Warbling Vireo, House Wren, Williamson's Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Blue-Throated Hummingbird.

MacGillivary's Warbler- list is fine the way it is.

Common Black-Hawk associated species- remove Gila Woodpecker, Yellow Warbler; keep Summer Tanager, Cooper's Hawk, Acorn Woodpecker, Cassin's Kingbird, Hooded Oriole, Painted Redstart, Elf Owl, Thick-billed Kingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Violet-Crowned Hummingbird.




We fine-tuned the current Biological Objectives, identified the assumptions we are making when stating our objectives and identified methods of evaluating our success or progress.

We agreed that for each species that had no specific population objective, that we would use the following general objective:

Within the current range and distribution in Arizona, maintain a viable, self-sustaining population with no net loss.


1.Within the current range and distribution in Arizona, maintain a viable, self-sustaining population with no net loss.

2. Rewrite 2nd part of first objective to read: Manage potential habitat to achieve structural and vegetation characteristics necessary to support increasing numbers of breeding SW Willow Flycatcher pairs within 5 to 20 years. These characteristics may be achieved through restoring, maintaining, enhancing and creating habitat.

3. Identify the site specific, primary threats to productivity (cowbird parasitism, nest predation, etc.) and manage to reduce them.


1) If we achieve the above characteristics, SWWF will increase.

2) We are providing the necessary habitat characteristics.

3) 5-20 years is adequate to achieve habitat necessary for SWWF.

4) We can identify and quantify threats to productivity.

5) We can manage to reduce the threats to productivity.

Evaluation/Research Needs:

1) Monitor SWWF occupancy and breeding productivity in these habitats.

2) Monitor productivity and threats.


1. Avoid any loss of current habitat.

2. Maintain timber harvest buffer strip of 100 m, or up to slope break, on either side of drainage. Current U.S. Forest Service guideline not adequate (50 ft on each side).

3. Within the current range and distribution in Arizona, maintain a viable, self-sustaining population with no net loss.


1) Populations are stable.

2) Stability is linked to habitat availability; current available habitat is sufficient to maintain populations.

3) If we increase our timber harvest buffer to 100 m, we will maintain suitable habitat.

4) Habitat loss is the main threat to RFWA.

Evaluation/Research Needs:

1) Monitor habitat trends (increasing, stable, decreasing).


1) Within the current range and distribution in Arizona, maintain a viable, self-sustaining population with no net loss.

2) Maintain current MacGillivray's Warbler habitat.

3) Increase MacGillivray's Warbler habitat within 10 years.


1) We can maintain current habitat.

2) There is a negative population and habitat trend.

3) If we increase habitat, populations will increase.

Evaluation/Research Needs:

1) Habitat and population monitoring.


1) Within the current range and distribution in Arizona, maintain a viable, self-sustaining population with no net loss.

2) Establish a "not net loss" policy for suitable riparian habitat.

3) Increase suitable habitat within historical range within 25-50 years."


1) There is available habitat throughout historical range.

2) Habitat loss and degradation are the major threats to COBH.

3) We can achieve suitable habitat in 25-50 years.

Evaluations/Research Needs:

Monitor habitat and populations.


Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

ACTION ITEM: Tracy McCarthey will refine the current Mgt. Issues and Conservation Recommendations to be consistent with those in the Conservation Assessment for the SWWF.

Red-faced Warbler

Habitat Loss:

1. Maintain a buffer strip, 100 m or to the slope break, of no timber harvesting for suitable habitat areas in or adjacent to riparian habitat.

Human Disturbance:

1. This may not really be a problem for RFWA. Move to research needs section.

Research needs:

add: Determine threats to the pop.

add: Create an annotated bibliography for the species.

Delete number 3 and 4 from current plan.

MacGillivray's Warbler

Habitat Loss:

1) Change #1 to say: Implement management practices that will stimulate the necessary shrubby habitat components such as: prescribed fire, and vegetation manipulation.

2) Add: After habitat manipulation, encourage planting of native species

Delete: number 2 from current plan.

Frequency of disturbance regimes:

1) Reestablish the natural fire regime; remove excessive fuel build-up before introducing fire into the habitat. Revegetate with native seeds.

2) Manage upland and riparian soil conditions to improve water infiltration and retention. This will reduce peak flow and increase base flows in riparian habitats. This will be beneficial during drought years.

Research Needs:

add: Is browsing elk on young maples and oaks a problem on Mogollon Rim?

add: What if any are possible human disturbances?

add: Is BHCO parasitism a problem?

Common Black-Hawk

Water Diversion: (take out Channelization)

1) take out "work with land managers"- keep: Avoid or minimize water diversions that decrease or eliminate perennial flow to Common Black-hawk habitat.

2) avoid flood-control practices that reduce water availability to riparian habitat

**General Conservation Recommendation

Work with land owners to restore, establish and maintain habitat through conservation easements, incentive programs etc.

Habitat Loss:

1) Reduce or avoid activity such as: riparian travel, work, grazing, etc. in areas that have less than 2 year old seedlings becoming established.

2) Site urban development away from riparian areas and associated floodplain

Water Quality:

1) Encourage high water quality (reduce high turbidity, heavy metals, agricultural runoff, etc). Good water quality is needed to ensure adequate prey items.

Human Disturbance:

1) Where ever possible, manage human visitation to minimize disturbance during the breeding season.


Priority Species Review

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher - Associate species list was revised. leave Bell's Vireo, and Abert's Towhee, take out Hooded Oriole and Violet-crowned Hummingbird.

Add Song Sparrow and Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler considered but decided its better with W. Yellow-billed Cuckoo in low elevation riparian and with SW Willow Flycatcher in high elevation riparian. A sentence should be added discussing the fact that these birds are not indicators for SWWF, but they are indicators for potential SWWF habitat. In other words just because these birds occur does not mean that SWWF will occur. There are varying degrees to which any of these species may or may not occur.

Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo - list fine as is except take out Hooded Oriole and add Northern Oriole instead. In limited situations (generally in SE Arizona) you may also have Gray Hawk, Mississippi Kite, Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, Thick-Billed Kingbird.

Gray Hawk may also go in high elevation. Dave Krueper not aware of any over 4500 ft.

Lucy's Warbler - list fine as is except add Abert's Towhee and put in limited situations (generally in SE Arizona), Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl in ironwood, and with 30-40 saguaros /acre (T. Tibbets). See the same cautionary sentence as SWWF above.

Common Black-Hawk - list OK as is. Possibly Add COYE?? for indicator of vegetation on banks and perennial water.


Of the other high priority species not named as a conservation action species we determined that:

-Bald Eagle concerns are being addressed by the Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program.

-Yellow warblers are found in high riparian flycatcher, low riparian W. yellow-billed cuckoo and common black-hawk habitat

-Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are Mexican peripherals and found in W. yellow-billed cuckoo habitat.

-Thick-billed Kingbirds are Mexican peripherals and included in W. yellow-billed cuckoo habitat.

-Gray hawks are Mexican peripherals and found in W. yellow-billed cuckoo habitat in certain situations.

-Abert's Towhees are high responsibility birds for Arizona but are thought to have stable populations. They are found in SW Willow Flycatcher and Lucy's Warbler habitat.

-Rose-throated Becards are Mexican peripherals, 2-3 pair per year found and upper (elevation) part of low elevation in sycamore and monitor only.

-Mississippi Kites are Southern U.S. peripherals and found in W. yellow-billed cuckoo habitat.

-Bell's Vireos are found in SW Willow Flycatcher and Lucy's Warbler habitat.

-Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet are Mexican peripherals and found in W. Yellow-billed cuckoo habitat.

-Green Kingfisher are Mexican peripherals and are found in perennial stretches of W. yellow-billed cuckoo habitat in limited situations.

-Hooded Orioles are found in palms often in urban situations.

-Elf Owls are found in Lucy's Warbler habitat.

-Broad-billed Hummingbird are opportunistic feeders not tied to water, key in on structure in riparian habitat.

-Summer Tanagers are found in W. yellow-billed cuckoo and common black-hawk habitat.

-Varied Buntings are found in Lucy's Warbler habitat.

-Brown-crested Flycatchers are found in W. yellow-billed cuckoo habitat.

-Cassin's Kingbirds are found in common black-hawk habitat.

-Gila Woodpeckers are found in common black-hawk and Lucy's warbler habitat.

-Cooper's Hawk are found in W. yellow-billed cuckoo and common black-hawk habitat.

Habitat Description Discussion: The following sections should be written for this habitat. Some/most of the information is in the write up but it lacks organization and flow.

disturbance regimes

geographic extant/map/description of lower elevation and definition of low versus high

physical features/climate

vegetation - species composition

land use history

current use

importance of habitat

Xeric Riparian

Reword last 2 sentences. Washes are more disturbed now - "historically" not heavily impacted;

add Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use in washes too.

We considered putting Xeric Washes in Sonoran Desert Scrub. But decided to: Keep desert washes in riparian to elevate importance of this component of riparian habitat.

We discussed whether scrublands/shrublands were separate or should be combined with forest and woodlands. We decided in most situations in low riparian that they are a successional stage or a disclimax occurring because of flooding of a dynamic forest/woodland riparian habitat. Combine scrublands (which consist of scrub typically 1.5 - 3 meters tall, may reach 11 meters for salt cedar and affiliated spp.) with forest & woodlands.

ACTION ITEM: Riparian Habitat write up - Bill Berger will make needed corrections and add some more meat to the habitat description.

Species descriptions

Discussion: - In the introduction, add why these priority birds were chosen, intro sentences etc.

The following people took lead for reviewing and updating the four species. Especially for adding citations, updating habitat requirements and noting where they found no data on characteristics in the handout. Also for reviewing the rest of the section on their species, objectives, recommendations, etc.

ACTION ITEM: By December 19th the following people will complete the task above for the species listed after their names:

Susan Sferra - SW Willow Flycatcher

Barb Raulston - Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Diane Laush - Lucy's Warbler

Terry Frederick - Common Black-Hawk




***The following discussion is organized slightly different than the high elevation riparian section because breakout groups met separately. The notes have been left in their original order to maintain the thought process of the group.***

Habitat and Population Objectives. (each species) - Should include the following 6 types of statements:

habitat condition

habitat amount

distribution - landscape

matrix - incompatible situations surrounding site

numbers of pair pop

time frame

There can be 3 levels of objectives:

1. Micro-habitat - species specific, usually within territory requirements. e.g. # of snags per acre, foliage density at a certain level, mature vegetation, cowbird parasitism, etc.

2. Habitat - over all what the habitat should look like, e.g., dense understory, recruitment of cottonwood, open canopy, etc.

3. Landscape (macro) - e.g., x% should be in mature forest and y% should be in secondary forest or regenerating within a watershed drainage, discuss connectivity, etc.)

SOUTHWESTERN WILLOW FLYCATCHER OBJECTIVES (perhaps some of these are general for each species)

OBJECTIVE 1. Within the current range of the SWWF, maintain existing populations and habitat with no net loss.

Reasoning: There are so few left, need what is left of the genetic diversity and for recruitment to expand into suitable unoccupied habitat.

Assumption: By maintaining these populations we will have a better chance for these populations to expand into suitable unoccupied habitat.

Evaluation/Research Need: monitor existing populations and habitat.

OBJECTIVE 2. Within historical range, increase suitable habitat and improve/enhance existing potential habitat to support at least 2 viable, self-sustaining populations.

Carol urged folks to set a numerical goal. Within the historical range, increase population by ???? in ???? years (viable self sustaining ? 500?). But we never decided on any. We had a question about where these populations should be, one in each watershed (San Pedro, Bill Williams, Lower Colorado, Salt Verde, Virgin and Little Colorado), or 2 populations for the state and where would they be.

Reasoning: At least two viable populations are needed to protect against catastrophic events impacting the only population.

Assumption: We can restore suitable habitat. SWWF will occupy restored habitat. We can determine what a viable population is.

**RECOMMENDATION: Restore processes that create riparian habitat......flood regimes, minimum in stream flows. Encourage larger patches - reduce fragmentation and increase connectivity.

Evaluation/Research Need: Find out amount how much existing habitat remains and where are best spots for restoration. Determine what is a viable population?

OBJECTIVE 3. Reduce cowbird parasitism by 20% at each site. (monitor)

Reasoning: SWWF can not reverse declining trends with a high rate of parasitism. A population and habitat viability model suggested that black-capped vireos (another endangered songbird) could be reproductively successful with no more than a 20% parasitism rate.

Assumption: Based on black capped vireo PHVA assumption - SWWF will respond similarly.

Evaluation/Research Need: Monitor nesting SWWF, determine reproductive success, survivorship, dispersal, etc. i.e., variables needed for modeling population viability simulations. Include in research how much of predation is related to habitat conditions. Determine the most efficient method for lowering cowbird parasitism.

OBJECTIVE 4. Reduce predation rate to less than 20% per site until population is increased/stable.

Reasoning: Predation is also reducing the viability of SWWF populations.

Assumption: A 20% predation rate is sustainable.

Evaluation/Research Need: Monitor nesting SWWF, determine reproductive success, survivorship, dispersal, etc. i.e., variables needed for modeling population viability simulations. Determine the most efficient method for lowering predation rate. Include in research how much of predation is related to habitat conditions.

Current objectives 3, 4, & 5 should be moved to conservation recommendations (how we want to accomplish objectives) or research needs.



HABITAT: determine which Laymon territory size figure would be best for Arizona. A width figure can be made based on territory size or with a call to Kern River.

OBJECTIVE 1. - leave as is

OBJECTIVE 2. - leave as is

OBJECTIVE 3. - leave as is

We did not fill in assumptions and needs.


Discussion: New information from the Birds of North America account, describes pairs at 30-200 m apart.

OBJECTIVE 1. Maintain existing habitat and increase total amount of habitat.

OBJECTIVE 2. Drop "achieve and maintain" for "Ensure".

OBJECTIVE 3. Establish 100 meter buffers of suitable Lucy's Warbler habitat in urban environments.

Evaluation/Research: determine viable population. Population size is not easily quantified, harder to survey - index: assume so many pairs in so much suitable habitat.

This species was chosen because it represented cavity nesters in low elevation riparian bosques.



What is the potential to achieve suitable habitat and how many years does it take?

OBJECTIVE 1. Leave as is.

OBJECTIVE 2. Increase the amount of suitable habitat by 25% in 25 years and by 100% in 50 years by encouraging natural events to promote regeneration.

Reasoning: This takes into account the fact that it takes a while to achieve mature cottonwoods, but there are some areas where cottonwoods are regenerating but have not yet attained mature stature.

Assumption: By increasing habitat as above, we will have viable, self sustaining population.

Evaluation/Research Need: Determine amount of existing habitat and determine what areas would be good to improve in 25 year period and which ones within 50 years.

Note: Gila, Bill Williams and San Pedro rivers have well started habitat but not yet mature.

A possible resource person is: Clint Boal - site for COBH, UA Dept of BS?



Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

*Habitat Loss and Modification

2. change "eliminate destruction of " to "maintain and increase suitable riparian habitats"

5. Should read Restore natural reachers of riparian habitat by restoring intervening degraded segments.

6. add - Promote establishment of areas of slow/back waters.

7. Manage for large, contiguous blocks of habitat rather than for small fragmented areas.

8. Add - In urbanizing areas promote retention of riparian areas.

*Water Management (instead of diversion and channelization)

1. Change Minimize to Manage.

2. Mimic natural in stream flow regimes including periodic flood events.

Brown-headed Cowbird Parasitism and predation

-Eliminate section on conversion to ag/urbanization.

*Pesticide Use - leave as is

(* These General Recommendations, common to many species, should also be discussed in the Coordination of Recommendations and Opportunities section at the end of low elevation riparian)

Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Habitat Loss and Modification

- leave as is

Lack of Recruitment

2.Take out "allow for" and put in "promote" natural regeneration from seed sources.

Pesticide Use

2. Take out according to directions, put in "into habitat".


1. take out ( put under human disturbance)

2. keep as is.

3. take out- captive breeding program

Add- Target areas near existing occupied habitat for restoration, before areas farther away.

Human Disturbance

1. Limit or eliminate human disturbance from nesting areas from June 1 through Aug 31.

Lucy's Warbler

Habitat Loss and Modification

Add New -1. Encourage a no net loss policy for mesquite bosques.

Old 1: change wording to say "promote retention of mesquite bosques".

Old 2. Change wording to say "Where fuelwood harvest is legal, promote sustainable harvest instead of widespread", ....

*Ground water/disruption of natural flooding -(combining two issues)

Leave all as is except take out #3 from under Disruption of Natural Flooding Regimes

3. Take out

Common Black-Hawk

Water diversion/channelization

1. Leave as is

Habitat loss and Modification -

1. Leave as is

Water quality - Leave as is.

Human disturbance

1. Limit human visitation to low (take out moderate) levels during the breeding season.

General discussion of implementation opportunities

Potential programs and funding opportunities:

Natural Resources Conservation Service - CRP, WHIP, EQIP

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Partners for Wildlife

Arizona Game and Fish Dept. Stewardship Program

Dept of Water Resource

U.S. Forest Service - Challenge cost share/ Stewardship Incentive program/bring back the natives (fish)

Biological Opinions/HCP-Habitat Conservation Plans

National Fish & Wildlife Foundation

Bureau of Reclamation - Endangered Species fund

CAP???? Water - Ask Susan

Department Of Defense - new program

Heritage Grants

Conservation Fund

Wildlife Forever

National American Wetlands Conservation Act

Potential partners:

Bat Conservation International?

The Nature Conservancy


Ducks Unlimited

Quail Unlimited

Deer Foundation

Rocky Mountain Elk

Hawk Watch International

Hawks Aloft

Peregrine Fund

National Wildlife Federation

Teaming with Wildlife ??? eventually

Trout Unlimited

Fish groups

Crane Foundation