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Easement Will Protect Important AZ Water Source

The protected area includes 230 acres of cottonwood-willow forest along the Verde River corridor. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
The protected area includes 230 acres of cottonwood-willow forest along the Verde River corridor. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
May 24, 2018

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. – Arizona's Verde River provides water to many rural communities and about 3 million people in the Phoenix area. This week, groups reached a deal to protect a portion of the river.

Amid a years-long drought, a diverse set of public and private groups are teaming up to ensure the Verde River stays as wild and healthy as possible. A new conservation easement with funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department is set to protect three miles of the river where it flows through the largest farm in the Verde Valley.

Kevin Hauser is the owner of Hauser & Hauser Farms, where the easement is located.

"When the economy's going good like now, I'm sure that if we didn't own it, there would be a lot of pressure to convert that ag land to subdivision," says Hauser.

The groups say if the farmland were allowed to be developed, it would likely mean digging wells and cutting down trees. The voluntary land agreement is meant to guarantee the land can stay agricultural and the river ecosystem can remain intact.

Hauser says the easement also gives him an incentive to put more energy into water-saving efforts on his farm.

"We know we're going to be here one, five, 10, 20 years down the road,” says Hauser. “And it allows us to invest in these water conservation projects with confidence that we know we're going to see these to the end and see them work."

The protected land also is adjacent to an area set to become Arizona's newest state park, which will add another mile of protection to the riverfront. In addition to protecting a water resource, groups say the conservation easement on the Verde River will protect habitat for willow flycatchers, yellow-billed cuckoos, bobcats, mountain lions and mule deer.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - AZ