Much has changed, both scientifically and politically, since the yellow-billed cuckoo was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. These changes, both positive and negative, affected Last week’s designation for approximately 300,000 acres of critical habitat For the species, it lost about 200,000 acres of the originally proposed habitat when the bird was first listed.
Some changes added acreage to the designation, such as the inclusion of ravines in and around the “Sky Island” mountain ranges of southern Arizona, where new survey data showed that Arizona koalas, like they do north of Mexico. use oak-dominated grasslands and ephemeral drains (which flow seasonally). Other changes removed the Surface designation and, like the designation itself, are a mixed bag. Some exclusions can be attributed to Disturbing Recent Changes to the Endangered Species Act Those allow greater consideration of the economic impacts of habitat designation and make it more difficult to designate habitats not currently occupied by species, even if conservation actions may eventually return habitat to suitability and occupancy. Other exclusions were based on scientific advances in what is considered suitable habitat for koalas, allowing conservation organizations to focus on the habitat most essential to the species’ recovery. Additional exclusions were based on equality and tribal sovereignty (all originally designated significant habitats in tribal nations were excluded from the final rule).
While this last important habitat sparks mixed feelings, and while drought, climate change, and uncertainty about water management in the West leave the species’ future in question, there is one thing we are sure about. – Submitted by 100,000+ Comments Hundreds of hours spent by Audubon members and employees, Chapter, students and other community scientists in Audubon spent time looking for koalas in the field Arizona Important Bird Area He had a positive and lasting impact on the species.
In total, more than 150,000 of the approximately 300,000 acres designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as critical habitat for yellow-billed cuckoos are in Arizona. Read on to learn about some of the sites that our efforts helped keep safe.
• Upper Agua Fria River
The upper Agua Fria River, located in the geographic center of the state, is home to Agua Fria National Monument Riparian Corridor Important Bird Area, This is a famous stronghold of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The river and its tributaries support extensive stretches of healthy Fremont cottonwood and Gooding willow forests, which are lined with mesquite and juniper/oak scrub communities, a habitat long thought to be important to the species. The Agua Fria Basin also supports degraded riparian habitat: the aspen and willow chains are separated by large patches of scarce and unsuitable habitat with limited surface water. Although it was long thought that this type of habitat was not used by yellow-billed cuckoos, more than a decade after surveys conducted by Audubon Southwest, Sonora Audubon Society, the Friends of Agua Fria National Monument, The Bureau of Land Management and others turned this old understanding upside down. Frequent detections in this type of habitat have shown that koalas use these degraded habitats, especially when they are located among patches of more classical riparian forest. In addition, the observed changes in these habitats during the years of the study showed that, in systems such as cold water, which still have natural hydrological cycles (periodic flooding due to summer and winter runoff), the habitat is extremely dynamic. And the appropriate fields can change. to season. Thanks to study efforts in the upper Agua Fria River, more than 3,000 acres along the river and its tributaries were designated as important habitats, and lessons learned about habitat suitability for others in the species’ range. Designations can be applied to.
• Tonto Creek
Tonto Creek empties into Theodore Roosevelt Lake in Gila County and is now an important habitat of approximately 500 acres for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Student surveyors surveyed in 2013 by Audubon Southwest and recruited through our program river way, Tonto Creek supports stands of healthy riparian forest, as well as scattered expanses of tamarind dominated by Roosevelt Lake Management, ATVs and cattle grazing. Despite these changes, Tonto Creek still supports important cuckoo breeding habitat and provides an important migratory corridor for cuckoos that travel further north.
• Lower San Pedro
With approximately two-thirds of North American species using the river each year, it is no secret that the San Pedro is an important resource for birds. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that more than 20,000 acres of critical habitat were designated in its lower watershed. What is surprising, however, is the type of habitat of the San Pedro River cuckoo. Along with world-class outposts of Poplar/Willow Riparian Forest, San Pedro also supports Arizona’s largest intact stand of Ancient Mesquite Forest, spanning the area between San Manuel and Mammoth. Surveys conducted in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy from 2015 to 2019 have shown that yellow-billed koalas will breed in large numbers in this type of habitat, even if it provides little or no actual riparian habitat. This information not only increased the area of designated critical habitat in Bajo San Pedro, but also provided the basis for designating other mesquite-dominated areas within the bird’s range. The designated habitat for koalas in the lower reaches of the San Pedro River is located entirely within Important Bird Area of Bajo San Pedro.
• Pinto Creek
Surveyed in 2017 by Audubon Southwest and students recruited through the River Pathway program, Pinto Creek now has approximately 800 acres of significant habitat for yellow-billed cuckoos. The creek, which begins near its confluence with the famous Haunted Canyon birding destination and flows north toward Roosevelt Lake, supports important posts of Fremont’s poplar and Gooding’s willow, and is one of the cuckoo’s favorite riparian habitats. slightly higher than that. Supports stands of Arizona sycamore and other willow species. Despite continued mining in the area and reduced flow in the creek, the section supports both a breeding habitat and an important flyway for northbound birds.
• Rio Verde Alto
Thanks for the surveys done by Prescott Audubon Society As of 2015, there are more than 5,000 acres of designated critical habitat for the yellow-billed cuckoo along the upper Verde River and its tributaries. There is a significant exclusion within this field Upper Verde River State Wildlife Area The primary focus of study efforts by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, a Major Bird Area, and the Prescott Audubon Society. While this wildlife area has been shown to support significant numbers of yellow-billed koalas, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion. Factors that led to this conclusion included a desire to maintain the ongoing partnership between Audubon Southwest, the Prescott Audubon Society, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the ongoing annual survey effort, and the area’s stated management priorities. , diversity of native fish, environmental education, and compatible wildlife-oriented recreation.” While important habitat designation may have provided greater protection for the yellow-billed cuckoo, we are confident that our ongoing collaborative efforts will improve the suitability of this habitat. will be successful in maintaining
• Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona
The “islands of the sky” of southeastern Arizona are named as such because, perched high above the region’s lowland grasslands and deserts, they provide an entirely unique habitat “island” to the surrounding region. In these ranges, koalas deviate from their typical coastal habitat and A. start using Variety of housing types Desert grasslands, including perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral drains within desert shrublands, and the oak-dominated evergreen forests of Madrian. Although these habitat types do not support cuckoos in the breeding range of most species, the region’s iconic major monsoon storms result in an increase in summer vegetation that increases humidity, lowers temperatures and supports populations. A large number of large insects on which cuckoos breed depend. Thanks for the effort by Tucson Audubon Society, Coronado National Forest, Northern Arizona University and others, more than 22,000 acres of significant habitat were designated throughout the Sky Island region.
• National Audubon Society’s Appleton-Vettel Research Ranch
The Canelo Hills, located between the Huachuca Mountains and the Mustang Mountains, National Audubon Society Appleton-Whittle Research Ranch It is home to some of the most ancient oak-dominated grasslands in the state. As seen in the nearby mountain ranges, the summer monsoon results in increased productivity at the research ranch, keeping it full of large insects – cicadas, grasshoppers, and others – on which the yellow-billed cuckoos depend . Thanks to community science volunteers, important habitats were designated along various drains within the research farm, as well as parts of the Canelo Hills within the property. Together, the important housing units through which the Research Ranch extends protect more than 4,000 acres.
While we are delighted to be able to celebrate the long-awaited critical habitat loss for the yellow-billed cuckoo, we are well aware that habitat protection alone will not be enough to bring this endangered species back from the brink. As well as activities and infrastructure, dams, ditches, trespassing, and off-road vehicle use that damage and modify Arizona rivers and streams, the over-allocation of limited water resources resulted in yellow-billed cuckoo extinction The risk of getting it increases. Drought, sustained and climate change. To address these issues, we must be at the forefront of adapting our water management strategies to combat climate change and meet the challenges of a future drought. To do this, we need to support all of our members and supporters: Join the Western River Action Network today.
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