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Posted on: September 21, 2021

Agencies Affirm Commitment to Water and Ecological Conservation of San Pedro River

Photo of San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Gila District, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Huachuca, Cochise County, and City of Sierra Vista affirmed their commitment to water and ecological conservation of the San Pedro River and Sierra Vista subwatershed area by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperative monitoring and management of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) and surrounding areas within Cochise County. 

The MOU provides a proposed path to ensure the achievement of mutually shared goals of an ecologically viable SPRNCA and regional water security, including: 

  • A healthy San Pedro River and ecologically viable SPRNCA. 
  • Adequate long-term water supplies to maintain the needs of the area’s residents and property owners, as well as the SPRNCA. 
  • More opportunities for continued economic growth and development within Cochise County.
  • An operationally secure Fort Huachuca that can accomplish its national defense missions, have a safe and adequate water supply, and comply with all obligations under the Endangered Species Act.  

The MOU reaffirms the alliance and commitment between the four partners on how to best collaborate to ensure a healthy, ecologically viable SPRNCA, San Pedro River and regional aquifer. The terms of the MOU detail the partners’ collaborative approach to evaluating and implementing terms of an adaptive management plan (“Plan”) aimed to conserve the desert riparian ecosystem of the SPRNCA while aiding the continued economic growth and development of Cochise County. The Plan will implement monitoring and management actions necessary from all partners involved to ensure the conservation and economic prosperity of the area. 

“Given the challenging breadth and depth of its mission, the BLM can only succeed through strong relationships with local communities and collaborative efforts such as this,” says BLM Gila District Manager Scott Feldhausen. “With a changing climate and the extended drought, we are facing here in the Southwest, such collaboration is more necessary than ever before. “Congress established the SPRNCA in 1988, as the nation's first riparian national conservation area,” Feldhausen added. “It is therefore fitting that this unique place be the first to have a collaborative, science-based process to guide management efforts to ensure the river meets the needs of the local communities and the plethora of species that call this river home, as Congress intended.”

The MOU for Cooperative Monitoring and Management of the SPRNCA is an important step forward in promoting greater cooperation among local and federal government. The MOU reflects the commitment of the partners’ enthusiasm to work together in good faith to implement an impactful plan. The plan outlines a clear, cooperative process for all involved to recognize their mutual efforts, assess their collective progress, and to re-evaluate and adjust goals as efforts move forward.   

“Cochise County has worked on various projects for many years to help conserve and improve the health of the riparian habitat within the County,” says Ann English, Cochise County Supervisor and Chairman. “It’s important to work together and cooperate with other agencies to successfully achieve common goals,” English added. “This agreement is an example of a shared interest between partners in conserving the beauty and utility of natural resources of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area for the public to enjoy for the years to come.”

“The U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca has been protecting the land it defends since 1877,” said Garrison Commander Col. Jarrod Moreland. “We look forward to building on a long history of environmental conservation and stewardship within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The signing of this agreement formally outlines the partners’ collaborative efforts and commitment to the conservation, ecological health and viability of the local area. These shared goals lay the groundwork in ensuring Fort Huachuca’s ability to meet its national defense missions.”

“The City of Sierra Vista is a proud partner in this effort to sustain and protect the San Pedro River, the regional aquifer, and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area,” says Sierra Vista City Manager Chuck Potucek. “As the first city in the nation to be named a WaterSense Community by the Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Vista has been making strategic policy decisions and working in-step with local partners for decades to responsibly manage local water resources. This agreement builds upon these long-standing efforts, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity to work together to achieve common goals that benefit both the river and our community.” 

“The Nature Conservancy applauds the collaborative, science-based approach that is the foundation of this historic agreement,” says Dan Stellar, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “As megadrought conditions not only continue- but worsen- throughout the western States, it’s more important than ever to inform water management with strong science, and to leverage limited resources among partners toward innovation and solutions that benefit all.”