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Water--Stream Flow:
water protection fund; mesquite; tamarisk

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: SB1478
Sponsor: Griffin
Legislative Session: 2014 Legislative Session

Verde River

SB1478 water protection fund; mesquite; tamarisk (Griffin) prohibits the Arizona Water Protection Fund from being used to plant mesquite, tamarisk, or other non-native high water use trees and also promotes the removal of those same trees. It goes on to establish a “watershed improvement program.” The bill still has major issues. First of all, mesquite are native and mesquite bosque provide important habitat for wildlife. Second, the focus should be on the restoration of areas, not on the removal of vegetation. 

The bill was amended to add an unrelated section on water banking, so now it had a bunch of water entities supporting it. This made it impossible to defeat.

Status

05/05/2014 - It was signed by the Governor.

Action Needed

No action is required at this time. The bill has unfortunately been signed into law.

More information

You can review the bill by clicking on SB1478.

Contact

Sandy Bahr at sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org.

Background

SB1478 establishes a “Watershed Improvement Program” to promote the selective control, reduction or removal of noxious brush and other vegetation and for the revegetation of land on which brush and vegetation has been controlled, reduced or removed. This provision could be used to harm watersheds and denude riparian areas. It could even be used as more of a crop fund as there are no limits on what type of “revegetation” might occur. All revegetation should be limited to native endemic species. 

Arizona should focus on removal of noxious weeds and non-native invasive plants and on revegetating areas with native species, not on removing our native vegetation. 

Any riparian species of tree will be a high water use tree.  Cottonwoods and willows, for example, are high water use trees, but are also ecologically significant. These trees and other riparian vegetation provide important wildlife habitat, filter and retain sediments and nutrients, reduce the chemicals that flow into streams, and reduce floodwater runoff, among many other things.

About 80 percent of all vertebrates spend some portion of their life cycle in riparian areas. [1]

According to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension,

  1. Riparian areas are considered the most productive habitats in northern America and “ribbons of life.”
  2. In the arid western United States riparian areas are less than 2% of the total land area. In Arizona, some estimate that riparian areas are only 0.4% of the total land area.
  3. The role of riparian areas is disproportionate to their size because of the many ecological functions and multiple uses of riparian areas.[2]


[1] http://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/natresources/az1432.pdf

[2] http://cals.arizona.edu/extension/riparian/chapt1/p2.html

     
     

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