Invasive plant species of Aravaipa Canyon

posted Feb 20, 2020, 1:40 PM by Peter Else

LSPWA member Phil Hedrick has led the effort to rid Aravaipa Canyon of invasive plant species for the past 25 years, and he has done so without financial grants for labor.  He does not spend a lot of time in planning meetings or talking about this effort.  He’s a doer, not a talker.  He spends most of his time in this conservation effort as a volunteer on the ground, actually removing these invasive plant species, particularly tamarisk (“salt cedar”) trees and the invasive annual, Sahara mustard. 

If you are with Phil in a car or out hiking when he spots an invasive plant, everything stops and the plant is either removed or marked for removal.  Over the years, he has received help from his wife, Cathy Gorman, from the late Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area Ranger Patrick O’Neil, from current Aravaipa Ranger Heidi Blankenship, from Mark Haberstich of the Nature Conservancy, from fellow Aravaipa landowner George Leys, and from other volunteers he has been able to enlist.

Phil is a model for citizen-based action and scholarship within the LSPWA.  Attached below is the recently published article that Phil wrote along with coauthors Blankenship and Haberstich:

 Invasive Plants in Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona: Invasion History, Life History, Problems, and Control

Fall, 2019 fund-raising campaign for LSPWA

posted Jan 25, 2020, 3:50 PM by Peter Else

Our organization has very low expenses and overhead, because our board of directors, its officers, and our head administrators are all volunteers.  This is truly a grass-roots conservation group that gets a lot of bang for each buck. 

Most of our out-of-pocket expenses go to court costs and our membership contribution to the Lower San Pedro Collaborative, a unified conservation effort that involves 19 other groups and agencies associated with the San Pedro River watershed. Since the announcement of our upcoming 2020 general account budget at our Fall meeting of November 9th, 2019., we exceeded our fund-raising goal, with a total of $5704 in donations, thanks to the very generous contributions of 8 landowners in the lower San Pedro watershed and two artists based in Globe, Arizona. 

Thanks to the following donors in our end-of-year fund-raising campaign:

Catherine Gorman & Phil Hedrick, landowners in Aravaipa Canyon

Anonymous landowner couple from the middle San Pedro watershed

Peter Else, landowner living on the River 4 miles north of Mammoth

Daniel Baker, landowner living on the River in the north Cascabel area

Frank & Nora Balaam, artists based in Globe, Arizona, with gallery showings at the Ventana Fine Art Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts in Globe.

Barbara Clark, landowner in Cascabel, Arizona

Joe Page, landowner in Cascabel, Arizona

Anonymous cash donations at our Fall LSPWA meeting

Updates on LSPWA for Early 2019

posted Mar 12, 2019, 4:24 PM by Peter Else   [ updated Mar 12, 2019, 4:34 PM ]

These updates reported by Peter Else, LSPWA chair.

The last two years have been very active for the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance, so active that we have been remiss in updating our website.  In addition to our normal on-the-ground conservation activities and our cooperative research and education programs, several of our other program areas are really taking off.  If you would like to participate in any of these programs, either with your assistance or your comments, please contact us at

COLLABORATIVE CONSERVATION--   Our overarching program area is collaborative watershed-scale conservation.  We are so fortunate to have retired Bureau of Reclamation biologist Diane Laush on our board of directors.  While working at that agency, Diane led one of the first attempts to promote collaborative conservation as a founding member of the Lower San Pedro Working Group.  Now Diane is leading the effort to expand participation by promoting the Lower San Pedro Collaborative, which currently includes representatives from 20 different entities, including local government, state and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

This Collaborative is not controlled by any one of the participating groups.  Meeting are coordinated and led by a professional facilitation company.  Initial work groups at the Collaborative focus on inter-county coordination, invasive species and fire management, and promoting a sustainable rural economy.  Most of our LSPWA volunteer efforts are focused on watershed-scale conservation, with six of our members actively participating in the Lower San Pedro Collaborative.

January Meeting of the Lower San Pedro Collaborative Steering Committee (photo by Tahnee Robertson) 


 CONSERVATION EASEMENTS--  There are over 190,000 acres of private and leased land in our watershed designated as various types of conservation easements.  As the last remaining natural desert river ecosystem in southern Arizona, the San Pedro River has become the logical choice for mitigating riparian-related impacts caused by development in Arizona’s major growth corridors.  Several of our members have been actively involved in monitoring conservation easements in the lower San Pedro watershed, and as of August 27th, 2018, we have accepted responsibility for managing and monitoring the 1420-acre conservation easement held by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at the 3-Links Farm, located 17 miles north of Benson, Arizona. 

Beaver dam on the 3-Links Conservation Easement (photo by Alex Binford-Walsh)

CONSERVATION ADVOCACY--  We have joined with five other conservation groups and the legal support organization EarthJustice to advocate for studying the impacts of the proposed 70,000-resident Villages at Vigneto development in Benson, Arizona, which would depend exclusively on groundwater withdrawals.  Rapidly building a city of this size adjacent to a threatened desert river ecosystem will obviously have impacts that extend beyond Vigneto’s property boundaries.  We no longer live in the territorial days, so we must look before we leap.  And, if you want to support a legal group that is actively working to protect the San Pedro River, please donate to the Denver office of EarthJustice, and let them know that you were referred by LSPWA:

Vigneto’s developers propose to replicate an Italian ecosystem, but in this case based on groundwater withdrawal in the Sonoran desert of Arizona.  This context-insensitive image was distributed for promotional purposes by the developer.  LSPWA is requesting that the impacts of such a radical change be studied before issuing a federal permit.



Peter Else’s legal case challenging the stated basis of the Arizona Corporation Commission’s decision to approve a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility for SunZia’s proposed new industrial-scale infrastructure corridor through 33 miles of previously undisturbed land in the lower San Pedro watershed went all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court.  The decision by the Arizona Corporation Commission resulted from a close 3-to-2 vote, with the stated basis of the deciding vote depending upon glowing benefit claims that were not backed up with evidence of large-scale demand nor with an economic feasibility analysis.  If the project is allowed to move forward, it is likely to be significantly different in scope and purpose than was claimed by the project sponsors.  The Arizona courts have decided that a significant change in scope and purpose will not be ripe for judicial review unless and until it becomes obvious following initiation of construction that the scope and purpose were misrepresented.  However, at that point, some degree of damage will already have been done.

New infrastructure corridors tend to expand in impacts and become routes for off-highway vehicular traffic, greatly fragmenting previously undisturbed natural areas.  This infrastructure should be co-located with existing linear infrastructure impacts to the highest degree possible.


Following the election of Donald Trump as president, newly-appointed EPA administrators in Washington D.C. started encouraging states to take over permit and enforcement aspects of the federal Clean Water Act.  The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Arizona Legislature jumped on this as a political opportunity.  Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance representatives participated in three initial meetings with ADEQ, and immediately noted that the State agency had not presented to the public a detailed description of the Clean Water Act permit/enforcement program that the State would be replacing.  Once again, LSPWA is insisting that our governmental representatives must aim before they start firing.  We have requested a detailed description of the staffing and funding required to assume the federal program, along with a basic feasibility analysis.  The State is currently planning to move forward without first describing what we are trying to replicate, in order to complete the transition before the 2020 federal elections.

Unauthorized dredge-and-fill projects like this one, an earthen dike constructed perpendicular to the main channel of the San Pedro River, currently are investigated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who subsequently required that this dike be removed.  If the State assumes enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act, it becomes more likely that local politics will have greater influence on enforcement actions affecting the ecology of our last remaining natural waterways in Arizona.



One of our directors, Matt Clark, has been working with the Arizona Sustainable Water Work Group to promote recognition of ecological water as a beneficial use in Arizona water statutes.  Arizona water law was mostly developed during the territorial days when it was assumed that the only beneficial use of our water resources are consumptive uses by humans.  Now we are in the situation where our last remaining natural rivers and springs are threatened by over-consumption.  Recognizing ecological water as a beneficial use would allow water right holders to voluntarily transfer some of their allocations to the health of these threatened waterways. 


We take the advice of native people seriously.  We care about what remains of our natural environment.  We care about future generations, and we want them to experience more of the diverse web of life than strip malls and virtual reality.  We don’t want our generation to write the last chapter in How the West Was Lost.  It this sounds important to you, please join us in our collaborative, educational, research, and advocacy efforts.

This is fine for the cities,



but let’s protect what is left of this:

Alex reports on Wildlife Monitoring

posted Mar 9, 2019, 7:19 AM by Peter Else

Summary of the LSPWA Wildlife Monitoring Program, 

by Alex Binford-Walsh, coordinator of wildlife monitoring for the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance and the Cascabel Conservation Association.

Since 2014, LSPWA has been using motion-activated cameras to document wildlife in the Lower San Pedro River Watershed.  We have been able to collect a long-term dataset at a number of locations along the San Pedro River and its tributaries.  Some of the animals we have documented include white-tailed and mule deer, javelina, coyote, gray fox, raccoon, opossum, hooded skunk, hog-nosed sunk, striped skunk, spotted skunk, ringtail, coati, bobcat, mountain lion, badger, black bear, turkey, gray hawk, yellow-billed cuckoo, and many other avian species. 

We have been sharing our data with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Saguaro National Park.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

2017 Update from the Officers of the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance

posted Feb 6, 2018, 2:59 PM by Jeau Mhàrtainn Allen

Accomplishments of the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance (LSPWA) during the past year were shaped by Mick Meader, one of our directors who passed away gracefully in February of 2017.

Mick was active in all of our program areas. He promoted science-based conservation planning. He countered myths with actual data. He exposed the exaggerated benefit claims and profound impacts of inappropriate development proposals through tireless research and engagement in the administrative review process. Always reaching out, and always ready to pitch in, Mick was a model for conservation activism.

Great progress was made during 2017 in the efforts that Mick had been promoting:
  • The Madrean Watersheds Landscape Conservation Planning and Design process has advanced to the stage where design indicators are being selected and conservation stakeholders are assembling for planning purposes on a regular basis.
  • Attorneys from EarthJustice have joined with the LSPWA and other local conservation groups in strongly encouraging federal agencies to study the environmental impacts of the proposed 70,000-resident Vigneto development near Benson.
  • Resistance to building an industrial-scale infrastructure corridor through previously undisturbed portions of the lower San Pedro watershed has progressed from administrative hearings to the courtroom.
  • Wildlife monitoring continues under the coordination of Alex Binford-Walsh, a dedicated young volunteer in Cascabel, Arizona.
  • Researchers collaborated with LSPWA landowners to conduct ecological and hydrological studies.
  • Aravaipa LSPWA member Phil Hedrick continued to lead efforts in the control of invasive species.
And, we joined with several dozen other organizations in Arizona to promote the conservation of indigenous water for riparian ecosystems.

Mick had a vision of building a shield to protect the now-unique biological richness and natural beauty of the lower San Pedro watershed. This vision lives on in the individuals and groups who had the privilege to work with him.

Consider the labor and monetary contributions you can make to the LSPWA, to the Cascabel Conservation Association, and to legal assistance groups like EarthJustice. The most lasting legacy we can leave is to conserve the natural ecosystems that took millions of years to develop. Protecting our last remaining wildlands yields the most bang for your conservation buck, far more cost effective and beneficial to wildlife than trying to replicate natural conditions in areas that have already been significantly disturbed by development activity. Let's carry on our shared vision with Mick in the years to come.

Comments Submitted on Ray Mine Tailings Proposal

posted Mar 8, 2016, 1:34 PM by Peter Else   [ updated Feb 6, 2018, 1:48 PM by Jeau Mhàrtainn Allen ]

LSPWA director Diane Laush used her extensive background as a wildlife biologist to develop comments on the proposed Ray Mine Tailings Storage Facility near Kearny, Arizona. On March 8, 2016, the LSPWA board unanimously approved sending these comments to the Army Corps of Engineers, as part of the process for developing an Environmental Impact Statement. Below are the links to the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and to the comments sent on behalf of the LSPWA:

Attached to this post (below) are the comments submitted by the LSPWA ("Ripsey Wash DEIS comments final").

Winter Meeting, March 2nd at Oracle State Park

posted Feb 16, 2015, 12:19 PM by Peter Else   [ updated Feb 16, 2015, 12:22 PM ]

With our recently granted tax-exempt status and our membership base now representing over 9,200 acres in privately-held lands, 71,000 acres in leased lands associated with three ranches, 91 land-owners and 59 supporters, the LSPWA is planning its next meeting around the theme of uniting our efforts with those of agencies and conservation groups who are active in the watershed.  The next meeting of the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance will be held at Oracle State Park on Monday, March 2, from 1 to 4 PM.

In keeping with our mission to unite agencies, groups, and individuals to protect a threatened riparian ecosystem and the watershed that supports it, our meeting will include a short presentation by Doug Peacock, the inspirational author who has maintained his connection with our region since working with Edward Abbey as the first managers
of the Aravaipa Wilderness Area (Doug said they decided to be co-managers since neither of them wanted full-time jobs).  Doug says he will be talking about Abbey, climate change in the distant past and in the present, and why conservation is so important to our future.

The bulk of our agenda will focus on our mission to promote a more unified culture of conservation in the watershed, our strategic plan, current challenges (including the SunZia Transmission proposal), and our ongoing programs. An agenda and directions to the venue will be sent out prior the meeting.

Many thanks to Oracle State Park Ranger, Jennifer Rinio, for making this venue available and offering her volunteer services to open the Park to us beyond the limited weekend hours that are a result of cuts to our State Park system.

Meader Releases New Paper on Water Usage by Mesquite

posted Oct 27, 2013, 2:40 PM by Peter Else   [ updated Mar 1, 2015, 5:26 PM ]

In response to recent state legislation that prescribes funding for the removal of mesquites through the Arizona Water Protection Fund, LPSWA director Norm "Mick" Meader has developed and released a white paper that compares the relative water use of riparian mesquite woodlands and various other plants and crops.  A copy of this report can found at this link:

If you just want to read a short version of the article above, Mr. Meader has also developed a two-sided single-sheet information summary on this topic that was developed for distribution at conferences and community events.  This information brochure can be accessed at this link:

Summer Meeting of the LSPWA

posted Oct 15, 2009, 8:02 AM by Peter Else   [ updated Sep 30, 2014, 9:38 PM ]

On June 24th, 2014, the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance held its fourth general membership meeting at Central Arizona College, Aravaipa Campus.  The main agenda items at this meeting included the certification of our newly elected board of directors, a group discussion on our strategic planning effort, a review of the Oracle State Park Dark Skies initiative, a decision to pursue additional funding for our off-road vehicle and wildlife monitoring program, and election of our officers for the next term.  

For more details, go to this link:


Scenario Planning for Climate Change

posted Oct 15, 2009, 7:59 AM by Peter Else   [ updated Nov 12, 2013, 8:37 PM ]

Science in Decision-Making:   Holly Hartmann of the University of Arizona discusses how scenario planning for climate change can promote strategic thinking about the future.  This webinar was sponsored by the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

YouTube Video

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