Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition

The Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition (VWRC; pronounced "Vee-Work" ) is a collaborative effort uniting landowners, organizations and agencies in their common interest in the health of the Verde River Watershed. Established in 2010, VWRC is hosted by the nonprofit Friends of the Verde River Greenway (FVRG).
 
VWRC is working towards the following vision: The Verde River and its tributaries comprise a diverse, self-sustaining, and resilient riparian ecosystem in which invasive plant species are controlled through cooperative stakeholder participation. 
 
The VWRC geographic project scope covers the Verde River from its headwaters to Sheep's Bridge, where flow decreases or ceases. In total, it includes 32,000 acres on 459.2 miles of the Verde River and its major tributaries - an ambitious project area that requires collaboration amongst a broad range of stakeholders, and a multi-year approach. 
 

Watershed Concerns

The Verde River of central Arizona is treasured for its wildlife habitat, water supply, recreational opportunities, and natural beauty. It is one of the most substantial free-flowing rivers in Arizona; an arid landscape where scarce surface water and riparian areas provide critically important resources for both humans and wildlife. Although the Verde River corridor supports native riparian vegetation communities, high-priority invasive species — particularly tamarisk, Russian olive, tree of heaven, and giant reed— threaten the health and sustainability of these communities. Further, dense, expanding infestations of giant reed and tamarisk- both fire adapted species- have increased fire hazard in riparian corridors. 

Goals

  • Ecological: Reduce invasive woody and herbaceous plant species through various control methods within the Coconino, Maricopa, and Yavapai County FEMA floodplain.
  • Social: Educate the local community and public about the economic and social value of a healthy river system, and the prevention and removal of invasive species, their detrimental effects, and the services and funding that are available to remove invasive species on their land.
  • Economic: Give the local community economic incentives and employment opportunities for removing invasive plant species on their own property.
  • Management: Establish a multi-stakeholder group to accomplish the ecological, social, and economic goals and to monitor the project’s success over the long term.

Participants

  • Community Counts-AmeriCorps
  • Arizona Game & Fish Department
  • Arizona State Forestry
  • Arizona State Parks
  • City of Cottonwood
  • Coconino National Forest
  • Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC)
  • Gila Watershed Partnership
  • National Park Service
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Prescott National Forest
  • Salt River Project
  • Tonto National Forest
  • Southwest Conservation Corps
  • Tamarisk Coalition
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The Vetraplex
  • The Wildlife Habitat Council
  • Town of Camp Verde
  • Town of Clarkdale
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Verde Natural Resource Conservation District
  • Verde Valley Land Preservation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Yavapai-Apache Nation
  • Yavapai County
  • Oak Creek Watershed Council
  • Verde River Basin Partnership
  • USDA Forest Service-Region 3

Watershed Plan

The Verde River Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Plan (CIPMP) was completed in 2011. The CIPMP was the result of a collaborative multi-stakeholder public/private planning process to develop a strategic approach for controlling invasive non-native plants within the riparian corridors on a watershed scale.

Description of Work to be Accomplished

Current projects are focused on control of the four priority woody invasive plant species of concern and secondary weed treatment. Pre-mapping and annual monitoring of treatment sites also occurs.  Treatment areas are prioritized annually in collaboration with state and federal agencies concurrently doing invasive plant control work on public lands. Treatment areas are contiguous across jurisdictional boundaries, with work starting at headwaters and moving down drainages. These efforts are supported year-round by a 19-member Steering Committee, four subcommittees, and three staff members.
 
FVRG/VWRC contracts with locally-based Conservation Corps crews (Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) and veterans (The Vetraplex) crews for invasive plant control work and biomass removal/reduction, providing training/skills development, and creating jobs while fostering the next generation of conservationists.  Additionally, the Yavapai County Community Restitution program provides a significant labor force to assist the contract crews with biomass handling and removal.

Project Timeline

VWRC is currently implementing goals outlined in the five-year Verde River Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Plan. VWRC is in its second year of implementation and anticipates completion within the next 3-4 years.

Budget

In 2013, the VWRC budget was approximately $1,188,000. A majority of this funding was directed towards woody invasive plant control and removal.

Sources of Funding

  • Arizona State Forestry
  • Arizona Game & Fish Department
  • Coconino National Forest
  • Prescott National Forest
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service, Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program
  • Yavapai County Resource Advisory Committee
  • Walton Family Foundation  
  • National Park Service
  • In-kind contributions
  • Tonto National Forest
  • Individual private donors 

Notable Accomplishments

  • A 19 member multi-stakeholder Steering Committee and four Subcommittees are actively implementing the Verde River Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Plan.
  • To date, over 8,000 streamside miles have been inventoried and mapped for invasive plants and over 5,000 acres have been treated along the Verde River and it’s tributaries.
  • Over the past two years VWRC has provided job skill training and seasonal employment to sixteen  local Veterans and 24 conservation corps members.
  • Verde Natural Recourse Conservation District Education Center, a VWRC partner, has taught over 17,000 school aged children about watershed conservation during the past three years.

Challenges

Much of the watershed is managed by public land management agencies. The lower third of the watershed is in the Wild and Scenic area which is difficult to access, making crew logistics and transport difficult. Parts of the project area are privately owned, creating a mosaic of many, small, privately owned properties in some areas. While many private landowners are interested in undertaking restoration activities on their land, funding can be limited, and extensive time and resources are required for private landowner outreach. Obtaining long-term sustainable funding to work on private lands and to maintain work that has been accomplished remains an ongoing challenge.

Website, Newsletters & Contact Info

More information about Verde River Watershed Coalition can be found on their website. If you would like to learn more about Friends of the Verde River Greenway, check out their site as well!
 
"The Otter" newsletter is a great way to stay updated on VWRC's activities. The newsletter introduces you to their dedicated staff, crews, and volunteers; reports VWRC's efforts and successes; spotlights important native species; presents community involvement and successes related to the watershed; and much more!
 
 
For additional information, please contact one of the following representatives:
 
Anna Schrenk:  Program Coordinator, Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition
951.236.6652; anna.schrenk@verdwrc.org
 
Chip Norton:  Program Manager, Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition
928-300-9013; nortonchip@gmail.com
 
FVRG/VWRC Main Office:
 
Tamarisk Coalition VWRC Contact: 
Jamie Nielsen: Restoration Ecologist, Tamarisk Coalition

 

 

 

Tamarisk Coalition's

mission is to advance the restoration of riparian lands through collaboration, education, and technical assistance.

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