Turning Audubon's Water & Birds Report Into Action

Arizona WRAN News - August 2017

In Audubon’s recent report, Water and Birds in the Arid West, you learned how groundwater pumping, river alterations, and other unsustainable activities are negatively affecting riparian habitat and the birds that depend on them.  We took the report’s release as an opportunity to show you how we’re working to protect the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, but the cuckoo isn’t the only species at risk and WRAN actions are as diverse as the birds and habitats we seek to protect.  Read on to learn how WRAN and our partners are taking action to protect rivers and birds statewide.

Investigating the Yuma Ridgway’s Rail

The Yuma Ridgway’s Rail, a bird historically found in Arizona in marsh habitats throughout the Salt, Verde, Gila, and Colorado River systems, is a federally endangered subspecies of Ridgway’s Rail adapted to fresh water. While the bird still thrives in extensive marsh habitat along the lower Colorado, data collected by Audubon and cooperating agencies shows that the bird is still declining within the Lower Salt and Gila Riparian Ecosystem Important Bird Area – a globally designated IBA in western Maricopa County.  Unfortunately, the cause of this decline remains uncertain.

Thankfully, Audubon Arizona’s Important Bird Area Program is on the case!  We are currently seeking opportunities to analyze existing data, look into the bird’s historic distribution, and explore potential habitat protection and restoration possibilities.  By synthesizing this information, we hope to determine how to best put our network to action ensuring that the Lower Salt and Gila Rivers IBA remains a stronghold for the Yuma Ridgway’s Rail and other priority species.

Supporting Arizona’s Water Managers

If you’ve been a WRAN member for a while, then you know that we often stand up to support Arizona’s Department of Water Resources (ADWR).  This agency is tasked with securing long-term and dependable water supplies for Arizona’s communities as is an important part of protecting rivers and other water-dependent habitats.

Earlier this month, ADWR Director Thomas Buschatzke testified before the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  In his testimony, he spoke to many WRAN priorities – supporting system conservation efforts, preparing for drought through long-term planning, finding solutions through collaboration, renewing bi-national agreements that benefit the Colorado River, and strengthening Arizona’s Groundwater Management Act.  This testimony is evidence of how your voice has affected the discussion around water management, and we look forward to providing you with more opportunities to support this critical agency.

Expanding the Network

This summer, in an effort to increase our capacity to reach people with action opportunities and to add a much-needed business voice to our leadership, we launched the Western Rivers Brewers’ Council (WRBC). 

We’re excited to announce that this month brought a new Arizona member to the Council – Wren House Brewing Company. They are the second Arizona member and the fourth region wide. They are also one of more than two dozen Arizona brewers from Tucson, Yuma, Prescott, Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Phoenix area that have signed up to take the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge to see who can create the best tasting beer using purified reclaimed water.

Over the last few months, the AZ Pure Water Brew team has treated more than 80,000 gallons of recycled community wastewater to prepare for this competition, which will culminate Sept. 10 at the 32nd WateReuse Symposium in Phoenix.

“The goal of the Challenge is to help people understand and trust the technology used to create purified recycled water as a possible renewable source for future drinking water,” said Jeff Prevatt, research and innovation leader with the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department. “The Challenge provides a working demonstration where people can see and touch the technologies used to treat water, and taste the final product for themselves. The involvement of so many local craft brewers has been amazing and helps to make the entire experience even more delicious.”

WRBC members and the AZ Pure Water Brew team know that an adequate and reliable water supply is critical to their craft.  We are thrilled to be working with them to protect Arizona’s water for rivers, habitats, birds, other wildlife, communities, and of course – beer.

Leveraging Partnerships

Much of the work we do would not be possible without strong partners in the hunting and angling community.  These collaborations are one of the reasons why, when we approach our leaders and policy makers, we are seen as something different than your typical environmental organization.  They allow us to reach a broad audience, they are powerful advocacy partners, and they help us to be effective within Arizona’s sometimes challenging political climate.

One of our strongest partners in the sportsmen community is Arizona’s Trout Unlimited, and we’re not the only ones noticing their hard work! In fact, their Communication Chair, John Doss, is to receive the national Distinguished Service Award in Communications at Trout Unlimited’s annual meeting this September. 

From the entire WRAN team – congratulations, John!

We’re proud to boast a network of members and partners that come to water and habitat protection from so many different angles. As it says in Audubon’s Water and Birds in the Arid West report, “It’s about birds, because that’s the Audubon mission and our focus.  But it’s also about the larger western ecosystems that support not only birds, but also communities, economies, recreation, and quality of life.”

We’re all in this together – stay tuned for opportunities to take action!

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