Private landowners are a critical link in the the success of Friends of Verde River Greenway. Here are a few of their stories.
For information on how you can become a private landowner partner contact Laura Jones.
Habitat Restoration Turns into a Classroom
Some call it the last undeveloped curve in Cornville. If you stand high on the ridge of Sugarloaf Road and look down, you see a 2/3 of a mile curve of creek and a small house built in the 1920’s sitting back on the properties upper level. There is a shelf of mesquite trees and a healthy riparian area with cottonwoods, willows and some large sycamore trees too. And of course, like most of Oak Creek there’s a sizable amount of Arundo donax, and a healthy distribution of Tamarisk trees.
The Kohnen family, Stephanie, Patrick, their four kids along with their spirited Australian Shepherd are thrilled to be living in such a spectacular place and were also enthusiastic landowners happy to pitch in to make the onerous task of removing invasive plants from their property possible.
First, Patrick and the kids trimmed the primitive road that leads down to the riparian area making it easier for the crews to access the plants that had to be removed.
Next the Kohnen’s worked with Sara Van Marel, VWRC Crew Supervisor, to coordinate the work of three crews on the property at one time. Crew #1, the Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC) worked to remove Tamarisk from the wash that runs through the property, while AZCC Crew #2, our retreatment crew, learned the fine art of Arundo donax/giant reed removal, while The Vetraplex crew began at the opposite end of the property, plying their well honed skills, talking out large stands of giant reed, faster than thought possible.
One of the advantages of this property was the ability to burn the giant reed instead of chipping which made the work go that much faster.
The Kohnen kids observed the crews at work whenever possible. They would trek down with cameras in hand, watching from a safe distance what was happening to the beautiful riparian area, seeing the creek from certain vantage points for the first time. The kids even joined our crews for one of their education sessions to learn about endangered garter snakes. Stephanie and the kids also quickly became favorites of the crew as well, when they would greet them with a cool drink or special baked treat at the end of a long hard day in the field.
Private landowner partnerships like the Kohnen’s are key to a healthy and sustainable riparian habitat in Oak Creek.
Going with the Flow
Hauser & Hauser Farms
In an effort to preserve the natural resources of the Verde River and its tributaries, Friends of Verde River Greenway (FVRG) is working with community partners to improve Verde River flows. Partnering with the Verde Natural Resource Conservation District and The Nature Conservancy, FVRG works with agriculture producers in the Valley to develop and implement conservation plans that address irrigation efficiency and habitat restoration. Developing these irrigation efficiency practices that result in reduced surface water use is one way to improve flows in the Verde River.
We are currently assisting Hauser & Hauser Farms to complete an irrigation efficiency conservation plan for 109 irrigated acres on their newly acquired Spur Ranch property. The Hauser family farms 600 acres in the Verde Valley. When implemented, this plan could save more than 200 acre feet/year of surface water.
Farm manager Zack Hauser, a sixth generation farmer, says that while they have gotten more efficient with the water they do use, watering his crops above ground still wastes more than necessary. So Hauser and his family are interested in drip irrigation systems that would water the plants from below through perforated pipes. He estimates this could save one-third of what they currently use.
“When you’re flood irrigating above the surface, you have to run extra water just for evaporation and water going back into the ground” he explains.
Hauser isn’t looking to save money on water because there’s none to save, as payments are made based on the number of acres of land irrigated and not the amount of water used. There are, however, other advantages such as better crop yield and better land maintenance.
Then there’s the simple desire to conserve the precious resource, a concept not lost on someone so connected to his environment. “We’re trying to be as efficient as we can with the methods we have,” Hauser says.