Breaking News

Trail cams to educate biology students and help wildlife management

By Brooke Curley, Eastern Arizona Courier – November 23, 2020

Earlier this month, Melanie Tluczek saw something captured on a trail camera she never expected to see — a coatimundi. Thanks to a grant awarded to the Gila Watershed Partnership, local residents could be in for even more surprises.

The GWP recently took $7,000 in grant funds from the Rural Activation and Intervention Network and the National Science Foundation and used it to purchase nine trail cameras that will be placed from Fort Thomas to Duncan, following the Gila River banks.

Kara Barron, the science and outreach manager for the GWP, suggested buying the cameras knowing that their pictures, if posted online, could serve several purposes. Not only could the community learn what animals are living in the river, but the cameras could also assist the GWP collect data and make better decisions when it comes to its restoration sites. For example, if certain predators are in any of GWP’s restoration areas, the team can avoid any territory infringement...Read more

Linear Park receives funding for next stage development

By Brooke Curley, Eastern Arizona Courier – October 13, 2020

The Gila Watershed Partnership just received a $43,534 check from Graham and Greenlee United Way for the Linear Park, enabling Stage Two of the park’s development.

The Linear Park, which will be located on the south bank of the Gila River, north of Safford and Thatcher, has been in the talking stages since March. After a public input meeting, which took place shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak in March, the GWP group has been making connections with local governments and landowners.

Melanie Tluczek, GWP director, said the latest grant for the park will pay for the park’s plan development and land transfers.

The Gila Watershed Partnership hired Trust for Public Land to create the master plan, Tluczek said. The plan was paid for by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Freeport McMoRan Community Investment Fund...Read more

Kara Barron: planting seeds for the future

By Brooke Curley, The Copper Era – September 5, 2020

Photo Credit: Brooke Curley

Kara Barron loves the littlest seeds — those she can plant in the ground and those she can instill in young adults.

Barron, a mom of two teenagers, is the science and outreach manager for the Gila Watershed Partnership.

She loves to see someone’s eyes light up when they learn something new and she’s passionate about seed collection and curation.

“I’m in charge of all of the babies,” said Barron, who has a master’s degree in biology and conservation. “My passion is native plant material development. Sometimes these seeds can be really hard to find. We need to figure out ways to make wild seed more available and find ways to farm native plants.”

Since moving to Safford last year, Barron has been working to get a new youth internship program off the ground in Greenlee County — the South Eastern Arizona Youth Land Stewardship Program.

Greenlee County youths, ages 16 to 20, will have the opportunity to intern with different forest service-oriented organizations for six weeks...Read more

Invasive tamarisk beetles reach the Gila River, defying predictions and raising concerns

By Anton L. Delgado, Arizona Republic- August 27, 2020

Tamarisk beetle

Photo Credit: Tamarisk Coalition

An insect imported to the Southwest as a way to control anotherinvasive species continues to expand its territory deeper into Arizona.

The tamarisk beetle has surpassed its predicted natural boundaries and outpaced its projected geographic movement since federal agencies set it loose in the early 2000s. Originally, it wasn’t expected to survive in the state’s arid climate.

The rapid expansion of the beetle population is threatening the habitat of an endangered songbird and other native wildlife. The insects’ ravenous appetite for tamarisk trees, the invasive plant the bug was brought in to control, is drying up miles of vegetation, which experts fear will fuel future wildfires.

This summer the tamarisk beetle is populating the Gila River for the first time, marking a new leading edge of the invasive species in Arizona.

“We’ve been waiting for the beetle ever since it was released and started making its way down here,” said Melanie Tluczek, executive director of the Gila Watershed Partnership of Arizona. “We knew it was going to be here at some point, it was just a matter of time.”...Read more

Grant approved for Gila River bed firebreaks

By Brooke Curley, Eastern Arizona Courier- July 24, 2020

Photo Credit: Brooke Curley/Eastern Arizona Courier

Graham County will soon be hiring a contractor to build firebreaks in the Gila River bed after a $200,000 grant came through. The firebreaks will protect bridges and electrical lines and make life easier for firefighters.

The Graham County Board of Supervisors amended the county’s wild land fire protection plan in May so they could pursue the grant, the first of its kind in Arizona, from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

It was approved in late June, said Bill Brandau, Graham County extension director.

“The plan is, hopefully, by the first of October we’ll be up and running,” he said.

Brandau created the Gila River Corridor Fire Mitigation Plan over the course of four years. The mitigation plan includes creating 14 firebreaks within the Gila River bed from the east side of the Gila River to the reservation on the west side. Firebreaks are areas where ground fuel, including salt cedar and Tamarisk trees have been removed, said Brandau....Read more

Tamarisk beetle reaches San Francisco River

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier- July 7, 2020

After years of waiting for their arrival, tamarisk leaf beetles are getting closer to the Gila Valley.

Last month the Gila Watershed Partnership found the beetles along the San Francisco River in Clifton. The insect was introduced to the West in the early 2000s to control invasive tamarisk, or salt cedar, which has crowded out native plants along many rivers. The beetles feeds on tamarisk leaves but do not eat other plants.

Salt cedar, native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean, was introduced to the United States in the early 19th Century as a windbreak and erosion control aid.

“It basically took over the waterways of the West,” said Graham County Cooperative Extension Director Bill Brandau. “People have been looking for a way to control salt cedar for a long time.”...Read more

Seed balls!

By Ricky Crisp, Eastern Arizona Courier- June 30, 2020

A fire in the bed of the Gila River near Pima recently took care of a lot of salt cedar, leaving the ground clear for the Gila Watershed Partnership to plant native brush and trees. On Tuesday, the GWP partnered up with children from the Boys and Girls Club of the Gila Valley to create seed balls to further their endeavor. Everyone had a blast...Read more

Tamarisk beetle finally hits the Gila Valley

By David Bell, Gila Valley Central – June 26, 2020

SAFFORD —After years of waiting, the beetles have arrived.

Gila Watershed Partnership announced discovery of the tamarisk leaf beetle in Graham and Greenlee counties.

“For the last few years, the closest population — and I love telling people this because it’s so bizarre — was a truck stop in Lordsburg, N.M. It was stuck there,” Melanie Tluczek, executive director for Gila Watershed  Partnership, during a recent appearance on Voice of the Valley.

On its social media, the Gila Watershed Partnership reported that tamarisk along the San Francisco River was damaged and, upon closer inspection, thousands of the beetle were discovered, as well as beetle larva and eggs..

The beetle devours the leaves of the tamarisk, an invasive species found along the Gila and San Francisco rivers, which can create flooding issues should the Gila Valley see significant rainfall, as well as increased risk of wildfire.

“The restoration that the Gila Watershed Partnership does is in preparation for that,” Tluczek said.

Another issue is that the endangered willow flycatcher makes its nest in tamarisk, so the GWP is evaluating ways to assist the flycatcher in relocating to native plants and trees.

The GWP is seeking help in monitoring the beetle. Those interested in helping should contact Kara Barron at more

After the fire: Gila Watershed Partnership sees opportunities

By Brooke Curley, Eastern Arizona Courier – June 24, 2020

Photo Credit: Brooke Curley/Eastern Arizona Courier

When the fire burned on Saturday and Sunday in the Gila River bed between Pima and Eden, the Gila Watershed Partnership suffered the loss of a restoration site. However, the GWP crew sees opportunity in the ashes.

The Gila Watershed Partnership is a nonprofit organization working to improve the water quality of Gila River as well as the ecosystem surrounding the river.

GWP director Melenie Tluczek said the fire resulted in the loss of an irrigation pipe, native plants, trees and native brush. On the plus side, however, the fire cleared the area of salt cedar that had been left sprawled on the ground after the restoration site began to be cleared in 2016. The cuttings in the Pima Bridge restoration area were as high as three feet in some areas, making it difficult to move around.

“In reality, we now have 10 acres here that we didn’t have before that we can now start re-vegetating,” said Steve Palth, GWP greenhouse director. “Obviously it’s not a grand and beautiful thing, but from a restoration standpoint we can take advantage of it.”...Read more

Gila River Linear Park plan presented

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – May 31, 2020

A master plan has been drawn up for the Gila River Linear Park, and the Safford and Thatcher councils recently got their first look at that plan.

The Gila Watershed Partnership, the Trust for Public Land and Tucson landscape architects McGann & Associates worked together to develop the plan for a seven-mile linear park along the river’s south bank.

“Every project has a point of origin, an idea. This idea was brought forth by local citizens who saw the benefit of reconnecting the community with the river,” said Don McGann of McGann & Associates. “It’s pretty simple but very ambitious.”

The plan includes a paved pathway, a softer aggregate surface path and native soil trails leading to the river’s edge. To protect it from flood damage, the paved trail will be located farthest from the channel. The aggregate surface path, which McGann said would cost less to replace if damaged, will run closer to the river.

The park will run from Graveyard Wash, east of Safford, to Reay Lane in Thatcher and might connect to the valley’s shared-use trail system...Read more

Linear Park cost estimated at $4.36M, GWP seeking outside funding

By David Bell, Gila Valley Central – May 29, 2020

SAFFORD — The Gila Watershed Partnership outlined for the Safford City Council its plans for the proposed linear park adjacent to the Gila River, including how much it could cost.

The 7.4-mile park, with multiple trails, would run through both Safford and Thatcher.

Don McGann, with McGann and Associates, told the council that the 4.2 miles in Safford is expected to cost $2.62 million, while the 3.2 miles in Thatcher would cost about $1.74 million.

But Melanie Tluczek, executive director for the GWP, said the the two communities may not have to worry about the cost.

“There’s quite a large pot of money for specifically this sort of thing,” Tluczek said,” and Michael Patrick, from Trust for Public Lands, has worked with this before and is starting to investigate that.”

She added that in addition to potential state funding, there are a number of other private groups that fund projects of this nature, “the areas where restoration and recreation intersect, which is exactly what this is.”...Read more

San Francisco river cleanup begins May 23

By Ricky Crisp, Eastern Arizona Courier – May 20, 2020

The Gila Watershed Partnership will be hosting a “dispersed” San Francisco River cleanup May 23-May 31.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing together large groups of people is not possible this May, but the GWP is challenging folks to maintain the social distancing guidelines and do their part to help keep the river clean over a period of several days.

“We are hoping that the extra time and incentives will encourage participation that will match what we’ve had in the past,” said Kara Barron, the science and outreach manager for the partnership.

Barron said the last cleanup they had in March had 50 participants, and the average is usually around 30. She pointed out any amount of garbage removed is a win.

The San Francisco River cleanup is part of an ongoing agreement GWP has with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and part of it involves the partnership monitoring water equality...Read more

Day Trip: Discovery Park Campus, a desert ecosystem

By Brooke Curley, Eastern Arizona Courier – May 16, 2020

Discovery Park is a place to dive into nature.

It’s a destination for hikers, bird watchers and local wildlife enthusiasts. The Park, 1651 West Discovery Park Blvd., is owned by Eastern Arizona College.

Hiking trails

Discovery Park has roughly four miles of hiking trails which are regularly maintained and dragged so they are at least eight feet wide.

“Walkers, joggers, runners, anything without motors are welcome on the trails,” said Discovery Park Director Paul Anger. “You can walk all the trails and get four miles in.”

Anger said the trails are wide so hikers or bikers can pass by wildlife such as snakes or Gila monsters without disturbing them. Near the pond and pollinator garden, picnic benches sit beneath tall cottonwood trees, providing a place for rest and a packed lunch. Drinking water can be found on the east side of the pond and ecology park near the green grass...Read more

Firebreaks a possibility for the Gila River bed

By Brooke Curley, Eastern Arizona Courier – May 7, 2020

If all goes as hoped, the Gila River bed will soon have man-made firebreaks that will protect bridges and electrical lines and cut down on the amount of manpower used to bring wild fires under control.

The Graham County Board of Supervisors amended the county’s wild land fire protection plan Monday so they could pursue a $200,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management that would pay for the fire breaks.

Bill Brandau created the Gila River Corridor Fire Mitigation Plan over the course of four years and will have the opportunity to implement it if the county receives the grant funds.  Brandau is the Graham County extension director and area associate agent for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension and has been involved with firefighting since 1976.

The mitigation plan includes creating 14 firebreaks within the Gila River bed from the east side of the Gila River to the reservation on the west side. Firebreaks are areas where ground fuel, including salt cedar and Tamarisk trees have been removed, said Brandau.

If the grant is awarded and the plan moves forward, it would be the first of its kind in the state, Brandau said. Fire departments would be able to consult a river map to see if the fire is able to burn itself out on a firebreak before deploying crews...Read more

Council members, supervisors will see final Gila River Linear Park plans soon

By Brooke Curley, Eastern Arizona Courier – May 6, 2020

The Gila River Linear Park plan will be presented to multiple local government agencies over the upcoming month and multiple landowners have already expressed their support.

Director of the Gila Watershed Partnership Melanie Tluzcek unveiled the Linear Park trail concept in mid-March through a public meeting. The park will be completed in stages over upcoming years and will be five miles in length in the Gila River Bed between Safford and Thatcher. The plans will include paved and unpaved paths along with restrooms and pedestrian bridges.

“We have the near-finished draft of the Linear Park plan,” said Tluzcek.

GWP will be presenting the final plan to the park to the Thatcher town council and Safford town council along with the Graham County Board of Supervisors during the upcoming weeks...Read more

Local nonprofits adjusting to new pressures

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – April 18, 2020

SAFFORD – With plenty of community help in the last two months, Gila Valley nonprofits have kept up their missions as they adjust to the new setting — and some of them are looking forward to future endeavors.

Virtual events are one way nonprofits have adjusted.

With a critical fundraiser — their spring native plant sale — at risk, the Gila Watershed Partnership also turned to a virtual format.

“The idea of losing the plant sale was pretty devastating to us, so we switched over,” said Executive Director Melanie Tluczek.

Instead of browsing in person, buyers pre-order native plants online and pick them up from the GWP Gila Native Plant Nursery at a scheduled time on Fridays. Tluczek said this helped maintain social distancing and gave staff time to keep the packaged orders and other surfaces sanitized.

People can also have the GWP buy plants on their behalf and donate them to an organization of the person’s choice.

Picking up her order last Friday, Kelly Hamilton, of Willcox, said the nursery was the “coolest nursery ever” and that she would spread the word about it...Read more

Arizona Gives Day generates $6 million in donations

Eastern Arizona Courier – April 17, 2020

SAFFORD – Arizonans donated more than $6 million on Arizona Gives Day this year, shattering last year’s record of $3.6 million.

According to a news release, nearly 39,000 Arizonans donated to 913 non-profit groups throughout the state.

This year, Our Neighbors Farm and Pantry received $32,127; Gila Watershed Partnership of Arizona $1,659 and the Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley $2,362.

Roughly $23 million has been raised since Arizona Gives Day began in 2013.

The final numbers for this year’s event, which was held April 7, include $150,757 from the Nonprofit Emergency Relief Fund, prize pool distributions of more than $193,500 and offline donations that came in after the 24-hour online fundraiser had ended.

In addition to this year’s financial support, 2,225 volunteers pledged 81,862 hours to nonprofit organizations of every size in communities throughout Arizona...Read more

GWP unveils its concept for Gila River Linear Park

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – March 13, 2020

SAFFORD – For the first time ever, the dreamers behind the the Gila River Linear Park unveiled their concept for the trail last week at a meeting held by the Gila Watershed Partnership.

“Collectively, we can do a lot of cool things,” said Eric Swanson of Langley Properties. “I think there are some really cool things going on here. This will be a place where families want to go, where they can feel safe. It’s going to be a great fit for everybody.”

Held at the Circle D Ranch House on Discovery Park Campus, the meeting welcomed the public and stakeholders to come observe the scope of the plan and offer comments and suggestions on the development of the park going forward. The GWP welcomed speakers from developers and architects to give a presentation on the design plan for the park.

“I’m really proud to be a part of this project,” said architect Don McGann of McGann & Associates out of Tucson. “This is a park for the community and we want you to be part of the design.”...Read more

San Francisco River cleanup is March 7th

By David Sowders, Copper Era – February 28, 2020

CLIFTON — The Gila Watershed Partnership will be holding a cleanup event for the San Francisco River on March 7.

The event begins at 8 a.m. at Riverside Park in Clifton and runs until noon.

“Come help clean our waterways.” GWP officials said. “Individuals, groups, and families are welcome to join us.”

Check-in is under the ramada at starting at 8 a.m., followed by a safety briefing.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles while the GWP will provide water. Hats, closed toe shoes and sunglasses are recommended. Volunteers will receive a free lunch (RSVP required) as well as 10-percent off at the Chase Creek Marketplace on the day of the cleanup...Read more

Watershed Forum talks projects, progress

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – February 26, 2020

Ken Showers Photo/Copper Era

THATCHER — With a number of stakeholders that included scientists, conservationists, and politicians, a local forum serves as a place for like-minded individuals with an interest in the Gila Watershed to network and collaborate.

Last weekend, the Gila Watershed Partnership hosted its third State of the Upper Gila Watershed Forum.

“The forum has been fantastic,” GWP member Steve Ahmann told the Copper Era. “They’ve really done a great job this year. I learned a whole lot and took a lot of notes, I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Working together was more than just an undercurrent for this year’s event. The theme for the 2020 forum was Collaboration Across Boundaries and was designed to bring communities together to discuss restoration and recreation, as the GWP has been eyeing tourism projects and partnerships in both Graham and Greenlee counties.

Following lunch, guests heard from speakers such as San Carlos Apache Tribe’s Paul Buck, and the GWP’s own Bethany Drahota.

Buck talked about work being done on a project site on the reservation and challenges faced due to the prevalence of salt cedar as well as illegal dumping. He credited the GWP for its help and expertise for moving that project along...Read more

Community Meeting to Discuss Proposed Gila River Linear Park & Trail

Gila Herald – February 26, 2020

SAFFORD – The Gila Watershed Partnership has received funding to develop a master plan for a 5.5-mile linear park along the Gila River just outside of Safford and Thatcher. This exciting project will bring a long-time concept to fruition and pave the way for the first public space of its kind along the Upper Gila River in Arizona. McGann & Associates – a landscape architecture firm based in Tucson that specializes in the design of parks, greenways, and trails – has been retained to develop this master plan which will incorporate input from stakeholders and the public.

An evening meeting is open to the public at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, at the EAC Discovery Park Circle D Ranch House. Members of the public will have an opportunity to view the first draft of this master plan for the Gila River Linear Park and Trail and provide input and ideas for this new public trail. Representatives from Gila Watershed Partnership, The Trust for Public Land and McGann & Associates will be here to provide a project overview and answer your questions...Read more

Greenlee Tourism Council selling entries to Great Duck Race

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – February 25, 2020

CLIFTON — The Greenlee Tourism Council and the Gila Watershed Partnership are holding a race to benefit the Upper Gila Watershed.

In April, the groups will be hosting the Great Duck Race. Participants purchase rubber ducks that will be released to float down the San Francisco River. Participants whose ducks cross the finish line first will win prizes, up to a grand prize that includes a river kayak, paddle and safety vest.

“The Greenlee Tourism Council and the Gila Watershed Partnership have partnered to help create recreational opportunities along the San Francisco River as it passes through Clifton,” organizers said about the fund-raiser.

The event is offering one duck for $10 or three ducks for $25. It will be held on the weekend of April 24-26 in conjunction with the Clifton Hill Climb...Read more

Spring Plant Sale returns in April

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – February 24, 2020

Photo Credit Ken Showers

SAFFORD — The Gila Watershed Partnership’s successful series of plant sales returns in April for the second annual Spring Plant Sale.

The sale is scheduled for April 3-4, beginning at 9 a.m. The proceeds from the sale go to fund the GWP’s many projects in Graham and Greenlee counties.

Popular plants from the last spring sale included cactus and succulents, flowers, vegetables and other region appropriate flora.

“There’s lots of interest, and I think the exciting thing is we’re seeing people that we’ve never met before. So this is bringing a whole new audience to what we’re doing,” GWP Director Melanie Tluczek said at last year’s sale.

The fall plant sale was coupled with workshops, and was open and free to the public...Read more

Discovery Park hosts girls-only STEM camp

Eastern Arizona Courier – February 24, 2020

SAFFORD — Last month, the Eastern Arizona Science Initiative held its fifth annual G.O. (Girls Only) STEM Science Day-Camp at the EAC Discovery Park Campus.

Eighteen girls in seventh through ninth grades, from Graham and Greenlee counties, participated in the event.

The focus of the free daylong camp was to engage local young women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons and activities and build and interest in higher-level STEM education and career opportunities. The girls received lessons and career information from four female instructors with a variety of professional backgrounds and experience.

The day started with a light breakfast and continued with the first two events of the day. Kara Barron, science outreach specialist for the Gila Watershed Partnership, shared a lesson on the importance of water quality, teaching the importance of clean water for native plants and animals, and how various types of pollution can enter a watershed and damage sensitive ecosystems.

The girls practiced using digital testing equipment in the waters of the Discovery Park Pond to determine its cleanliness and ability to support the local plants and animals...Read more

Gila Watershed Forum is next week

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – February 12, 2020

THATCHER — Next weekend, the Gila Watershed Partnership will present its third annual Upper Watershed Forum at Eastern Arizona College.

The forum will be held at the Gherald L Hoopes Activities Center starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 21.

“GWP hosts this event to bring together landowners, agencies, restoration practitioners, scientists, and government representatives to talk about topics pertinent to the Upper Gila Watershed and surrounding areas,” GWP officials said.

“This year’s topic, ‘Collaboration Across Boundaries,’ will bring communities together to discuss river-based recreation for sustainable tourism, explore restoration along the Gila River, and revisit last year’s theme of adaptation to drought.”

The GWP announced that the premier sponsor for this year’s forum is Freeport-McMoRan. The group also has the support of Rivers Edge West, Eastern Arizona College and Southwest Decision Resources.

Over the course of two days attendees will participate in active discussions, presentations, and will have the opportunity to take field trips to locations within the watershed.

Early bird registration is available until Feb. 14 for $25, $35 per attendant thereafter. Registration includes a light breakfast and lunch, as well as the cost of the field trips on Saturday. Registration fees are waived for students with a student ID “and for any nonstudents under certain circumstances, such as financial restraints.”

The GWP is an organization that works to improve and preserve the health of the Upper Gila Watershed for communities in Graham and Greenlee counties. Meetings are free and open to members of the public. For more information go to

For information about registration for the Upper Watershed Forum readers can contact Administrative Assistant Julie Davis at more

Willows by the watercourses

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – February 3, 2020

David Sowders Photo/Eastern Arizona Courier

SAFFORD — It stretches across the American West and looms large in the Gila Watershed Partnership’s river restoration plans; the coyote willow (Salix exigua Nuttall).

The Gila Watershed Partnership is a nonprofit organization that strives to protect and improve the health of the Upper Gila Watershed, and one of their goals is replacing invasive plants like the tamarisk with native vegetation.

Coyote willow is a small, pliable tree found along riverbanks and other waters. Along the Gila River, invasive plants have largely pushed it aside. “Due to the density and extent of tamarisk, there are very few sites along the Gila River that still support coyote willow,” reads a memorandum of understanding for another of the partnership’s goals — working with local stakeholders to establish a linear river park...Read more

Upper Gila Watershed Forum returns to the Gila Valley

Gila Herald – January 29, 2020

SAFFORD – Join us for the third annual Upper Gila Watershed Forum on Feb. 21-22, at Eastern Arizona College. The forum will take place at the EAC Gherald L. Hoopes Jr. Activities Center at 1020 N. College Ave., Thatcher, AZ 85552.

GWP hosts this event to bring together landowners, agencies, restoration practitioners, scientists, and government representatives to talk about topics pertinent to the Upper Gila Watershed and surrounding areas. This year’s topic, “Collaboration Across Boundaries,” will bring communities together to discuss river-based recreation for sustainable tourism, explore restoration along the Gila River, and revisit last year’s theme of adaptation to drought...Read more

Lions Club, GWP team up on planting project

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – January 28, 2020

David Sowders Photo/Eastern Arizona Courier

SAFFORD — The Safford Lions Club carried on its tradition of community service Saturday, Jan. 25, with a project to benefit the Gila Valley’s environment.

Club members, along with members of the Safford Leos, gathered at the Discovery Park Campus of Eastern Arizona College as part of a nationwide Lions’ Day of Service. Joined by some other volunteers, the Lions and Leos pitched into an endeavor to benefit the monarch butterfly as the butterflies’ population declines.

“We’re here because environment is one of the Lions Clubs International’s areas of concern,” said Chris Gibbs, Lions District 21-B district governor and Safford Lions Club service coordinator. “We’re here because of the monarch butterflies, which need more milkweed for laying eggs and a food source. These butterflies are a prime desert pollinator.”

The Lions came to Discovery Park to plant 622 milkweeds, provided by the Gila Watershed Partnership. Steve Plath, the partnership’s native plant nursery director, gave a short talk on milkweeds and showed the volunteers how to plant them...Read more

Great Duck Race date set

By David Bell, Copper Era – January 20, 2020

David Bell Photo/Copper Era

CLIFTON — A fund-raiser to help develop a recreational asset on the San Francisco River is set for the final weekend of April.

Organizers said during last week’s Greenlee County Tourism Council’s quarterly meet and greet that the inaugural Great Duck Race will take place April 25.

About 2,000 numbered plastic ducks will be dropped in the river, to float downstream and if a person has “purchased” the winning duck that person will win a kayak, paddle and safety vest.

The duck race is raising funds to benefit the Frisco Float & Trail, a proposed recreational park on the San Francisco River in Clifton. A similar proposal has been made for the Gila River in Graham County, Melanie Tluczek, executive director for Gila Watershed Partnership, told the meet and greet crowd…Read more

GWP builds erosion dams to protect Discovery Park

Eastern Arizona Courier – January 16, 2020

THATCHER — Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park Campus welcomed staff members from the Gila Watershed Partnership recently for a service project to repair and protect several areas near the entrance to campus from erosion and rain run-off damage.

“Heavy rains create cuts on hillsides where the rushing rainwater erodes (or washes out) dirt, smaller rocks, and native plants,” said Paul Anger, Discovery Park Campus director.

“Often called arroyos, these washouts allow the rain to quickly flow and not soak into the ground where the native plants atop the hills need it for survival. Erosion reduces the ability of the land to hold moisture and nutrients for vegetation. This process ultimately destroys the ecosystem, creating a barren land without native plants and animals.”

GWP staff built several erosion dams made of rocks and vegetation debris. These rock dams slow the flow of the rainwater and allow the dirt and sediments to settle and accumulate back into the ground instead of rushing down and carving out deep canyons...Read more

Gila Watershed Partnership thanks public for wonderful year

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – December 30, 2019

SAFFORD — It’s been a return to form this year for the Gila Watershed Partnership as the environmental group restructured, hired new staff and refocused on goals.

In what has been a year of positives the GWP wanted to reach out and say, “Thank you” to the public whose support made it possible.

“This has been a stellar year for the Gila Watershed Partnership, and we could not have done it without your support. We’d like to take the time to thank you for your past support, and show you what we have been able to accomplish together,” GWP officials said.

Among those accomplishments was the construction of a third restroom along the San Francisco River to combat E. coli in the water, restoration work on waterways to remove salt cedar and other invasive plants that were replaced with 2,970 different native plants. The river cleanups also netted a total of 2,275 pounds of trash this year, officials said...Read more

Gila Watershed Partnership reviews year, honors founder

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – December 23, 2019

SAFFORD — The Gila Watershed Partnership met the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 18, at the Discovery Park Ranch House to look back on 2019 accomplishments and ahead to 2020 goals.

First, though, the GWP paid recognition to a founding member.

In the Discovery Park pollinator garden, GWP members dedicated a plaque in appreciation and recognition of the late George Lemen’s years of community service. Lemen was a founding member of the Safford-Clifton-Duncan Watershed, which became the Gila Watershed Partnership, served the Town of Pima as councilmember and mayor, and was active with People for the West.

In dedicating the plaque, GWP board member Bill Brandau recalled Lemen’s joviality and his introduction of the idea of respectful disagreement.

Members then moved to the Ranch House for the annual update and volunteer appreciation dinner...Read more

An Unlikely Alliance Combats the Invasive Tamarisk

By “the miner” magazine, December 2019

A trio of somewhat strange bedfellows working to eradicate an invasive species in eastern Arizona is bucking the stereotype that the interests of mining companies are forever at odds with those of environmental groups and Native American tribes.

Freeport-McMoRan’s Safford operation has joined a first-of-its-kind alliance with two of its neighbors – the Gila Watershed Partnership and the San Carlos Apache Tribe – to thwart the spread of an invasive tree species threatening human, animals and other trees along the Gila River...Read more

Arizona volunteers plant hope for the future of monarch butterflies

By James Carr, Cronkite News – December 18, 2019

McNEAL – For monarch butterflies, it’s all about the milkweed. Without it, the iconic butterflies have no place to lay eggs and no place for their larva to feed – especially on their stupendous annual migrations.

Monarch populations have declined steeply in the past decades for a variety of reasons, including loss of habitat. To reverse the trend, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in January instituted the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan, a 50-year effort to help the monarchs bounce back.

Some of the first steps are being taken in Arizona.

At Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal one day last month, 25 volunteers spent five hours planting milkweed to create waypoints for monarchs migrating to Southern California and west-central Mexico from the northern U.S. and Canada – a trip that can stretch 3,000 miles each way...Read more

Gila Watershed Forum to return in February

By Ken Showers, Eastern Arizona Courier – December 16, 2019

THATCHER — Next year, Gila Watershed Partnership will host the third Upper Gila Watershed Forum.

The local conservation group announced the official date of the forum for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21-22, 2020.

The forum returns to the Gherald L. Hoopes Jr. Activities Center on Eastern Arizona College’s north Thatcher campus. The GWP stated that more information about the event would be forthcoming.

The event began its life as the “State of the Watershed Forum” in 2017 and attracted more than 130 guests that included citizens, scientists, and politicians to discuss issues and solutions for problems shared by those who share the watershed. Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake was the keynote speaker for the 2017 forum, where he discussed the issues related to water rights during his tenure as the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power...Read more

GWP fund-raiser earns for local interns

By Ken Showers, Eastern Arizona Courier – December 10, 2019

SAFFORD — Local organization the Gila Watershed Partnership made use of #GivingTuesday last week to help generate funds for local interns.

On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the GWP held a fund-raising event at the Manor House Restaurant in Safford.

In addition to online funds matched through Facebook, the group was selling native plants and receiving funds from a portion of Manor House sales in order to fund up to four interns in 2020.

“This year, Facebook is partnering with nonprofits to match the gifts that people give through the Facebook Gives button,” GWP Director Melanie Tluczek said in an interview with the Copper Era. “The Gila Watershed Partnership has a campaign going, and so every dollar an individual gives through that campaign, Facebook will match it.”

Tluczek said that the money will fund interns for a semester, part-time...Read more

GWP hosting fund-raiser next week

By Ken Showers, Eastern Arizona Courier – November 26, 2019

SAFFORD — Next week, the Gila Watershed Partnership will be hosting a fund-raiser for internships in Graham County.

As part of #GivingTuesday, the GWP is holding a Taco Tuesday Fund-raiser on Dec. 3, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Manor House Restaurant in Safford.

“Customers who attend can enjoy 99-cent tacos all day. We will have raffles, native potted plants for sale (an excellent gift idea), a GWP information table and more,” GWP officials said. “Ten percent of all Manor House proceeds will go towards our Giving Tuesday goal. A big thank you to Manor House for hosting this event.”...Read more

Elementary students help protect bats and agaves at EAC’s Discovery Park Campus

By Paul Anger, Gila Herald – November 22, 2019

SAFFORD – EAC’s Discovery Park Campus, Gila Watershed Partnership, Freeport McMoRan, and a group of EAC biology students hosted an activity for Mrs. Hilary Waters’ 5th grade class from Dorothy Stinson Elementary School about the interdependence of bats and agave plants, inspiring the students to replant nearly 50 agaves throughout the Discovery Park Campus.

The students learned about the importance of bats and agaves and how they depend upon one another for survival. This lesson was given by Ann George, Freeport McMoRan’s biodiversity projects coordinator; and Steve Plath, Gila Watershed Partnership’s greenhouse manager...Read more

Thatcher joins linear river park agreement

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – November 21, 2019

THATCHER — Following a Nov. 18 Town Council vote, the Town of Thatcher will join in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Gila Watershed Partnership to develop plans for a linear park along the south bank of the Gila River.

The non-binding MOU stated that The Town of Thatcher, the City of Safford (which agreed to sign the MOU earlier this month), Graham County, the Gila Watershed Partnership, the Trust for Public Land and a variety of landowners will cooperate in designing and establishing the proposed park, to be named the Gila River Trail...Read more

Teens form Treehouse Project

By David Bell, Eastern Arizona Courier – November 19, 2019

SAFFORD — Talk is cheap for two local teens — so they took action.

Two months ago, Jordan Walker, 13, and Arrow Hargis, 12, decided it was time to help the local ecology. So the pair formed the Treehouse Project with the goal of planting native trees throughout the Gila Valley.

“The community is a more pleasant place to be when there are trees,” Hargis told the Courier. “We’re trying to do as much as we can to help the environment and improve our quality of life.”...Read more

Gila Watershed Partnership is Joining the Global Giving Tuesday Movement

Gila Valley Central – November 19, 2019

SAFFORD, AZ – November 14, 2019 –On Tuesday, December 3rd, Gila Watershed Partnership (GWP) will participate in GivingTuesday by hosting a Taco Tuesday fundraiser at Manor House Restaurant from 11AM to 9PM. Customers who attend can enjoy $.99 tacos all day. GWP will have raffles, native potted plants for sale, a GWP information table, and more. GWP board members and staff will also assist in serving customers and will be available for questions and information. 10% of ALL Manor House proceeds for the day will go towards GWP’s GivingTuesday goal.

GivingTuesday, taking place on December 3rd, is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage giving and to celebrate generosity worldwide. Following the retail events of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, nonprofit organizations rally their supporters for a day of maximum impact. The goal is to create a massive wave of generosity that lasts well beyond that day, and touches every person on the planet...Read more

Safford signs on to river park proposal

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – November 15, 2019

SAFFORD — A proposed linear park along the Gila River, including a restored riparian corridor, is one step closer to existence.

In its Nov. 12 meeting, the Safford City Council approved the city’s entry into a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Gila Watershed Partnership — a document that bids to jump-start the creation of a park/trail, to be named the Gila River Trail, along the river’s south side.

A draft of the MOU stated that the City of Safford, the Town of Thatcher, Graham County, the Gila Watershed Partnership, the Trust for Public Land, River View Properties, Freeport McMoRan, Langley Mt. Graham Mall LLC, and private landowners will cooperate in the proposed park’s design and establishment...Read more

River cleanup, fund-raiser in future for GWP

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – November 11, 2019

CLIFTON — The Gila Watershed Partnership has been very busy this fall season, and there’s more to come.

On Saturday, Nov. 23, the GWP will be sponsoring another of its successful San Francisco River cleanups.

The event begins at Riverside Park in Clifton starting at 8 a.m. and will run until noon.

“The beautiful San Francisco River is designated an important bird habitat and is a hot spot for the local community to recreate,” the GWP wrote in announcing the cleanup. “Unfortunately, it is also designated an impaired waterway because of high levels of E. coli, a bacteria that can be harmful to humans. River cleanups are one of the ways we work together to improve water quality.”

Over dozens of cleanup efforts, the GWP has pulled thousands of pounds of trash out of the San Francisco River and made sizable efforts to reduce E. Coli levels via installation of restrooms and fencing of cattle...Read more

Third restroom installed along San Francisco River

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – October 27, 2019

GREENLEE—This month marks another milestone in the ecological recovery of the San Francisco River, thanks to the efforts of a local organization.

The Gila Watershed Partnership completed the installation of a third public restroom facility along the river this month. It’s one of several efforts the group and its partners have undertaken in order to reduce the level of E. coli bacteria present in the San Francisco River. “The third restroom was installed to provide increased access for rivergoers to restroom facilities,” GWP Director Melanie Tluczek told the Copper Era. “The San Francisco River is a beautiful place and a community asset, and this will allow people to enjoy the river while having nearby facilities so they can help keep it clean.”Read more

Native Plant Society coming to Graham, Greenlee

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – October 16, 2019

SAFFORD — With rising local interest in learning about native plants and their uses in gardens and landscaping, some Gila Watershed Partnership (GWP) staffers are putting together a new chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society in the Graham and Greenlee county area.

The Arizona Native Plant Society, formed in 1976, aims to promote knowledge, appreciation, conservation and restoration of Arizona native plants and their habitats.

“We focus on arid land plants that are not invasive to the landscape,” Gila Watershed Partnership Science and Outreach Manager Kara Barron said. “We’d like to show people how these plants can work for them and how they can enjoy them when they’re out in nature.”Read more

GWP Native Plant Sale a growing success

By Ken Showers, Copper Era – October 7, 2019

Ken Showers Photo/Copper Era

SAFFORD — The Gila Watershed Partnership’s Fall Plant Sale returned last weekend, bigger and better than ever.

The sale marks the second this year in the group’s inaugural year of plant sales.

Guests from as far Greenlee and Cochise counties numbered among those who arrived to take advantage of the many botanical offerings, according to Native Plant Nursery Manager Steve Plath. The GWP had found success at the spring plant sale; and by all accounts the first day of the fall sale exceeded even those numbers.Read more

A ‘mad race’ for San Simon Valley grass

By David Sowders, Eastern Arizona Courier – September 26, 2019

David Sowders Photo/Eastern Arizona Courier

SAFFORD — Arizona pioneer Will C. Barnes, who visited the San Simon Valley in 1882 looking for a ranch site, recalled its grass-covered meadows.

“Everywhere on the more open areas those fine stock grasses, black, blue and hairy gramas, grow luxuriantly,” Barnes wrote. “Here and there along the wash were tracts of alkali land on which sacaton touched my stirrups.

“To an embryo stockman this San Simon Valley was indeed a promised land,” Barnes added.Read more

Gila Watershed Partnership Presented 2019 Excellence in Reclamation Award

Gila Valley Central – September 24, 2019

Kara Barron and Steve Plath (Photo by Julie Davis)

SAFFORD, AZ  – The Mining and Minerals Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) presented the 2019 Excellence in Reclamation Awards to two projects. One of those awards was presented to Gila Watershed Partnership, Freeport McMoRan Chino Mines, Borderlands Restoration Network, and Bat Conservation International for their successful “Agave Roundup in Grant County” project that salvaged more than 750 agave plants for use in mine reclamation areas and non-mining areas for the benefit of improved bat habitat and environmental awareness..Read more

GWP plant sale returns this October

By Ken Showers, The Copper Era – September 10, 2019

Ken Showers Photo/Copper Era

SAFFORD — The Gila Watershed Partnership’s successful plant sale is making a return early next month at the Gila Native Plant Nursery.

The sale is scheduled for Oct. 4-5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The GWP is promising more than 5,000 different native and “drought-tolerant” plants for sale.

“Landscape your yard with native plants. Plant your own pollinator garden or plant the ultimate, carefree desert landscape with cacti and succulents,” the GWP wrote in announcing the next sale.

At its previous plant sale in April, the GWP did steady business attracting a sizable group of buyers interested in the available plants that included shrubs, trees, flowers, vegetables and succulents.Read more

Thank you Valley Telecom!

August 2019

GWP would like to give a big thank you to Valley Telecom for underwriting the construction costs in bringing a fiber-optic internet connection to our new headquarters at EAC Discovery Park Campus! Valley Telecom is a home-grown company that got its start by bringing telephone services to farmers and ranchers in our corner of Arizona and New Mexico. They continue their loyalty and customer service ethics to this day, and we are proud to work with them! Learn more about Valley Telecom

GWP talks about the river during library presentation

By Ken Showers, The Copper Era – August 27, 2019

Ken Showers Photo/Copper Era

Last week, the Gila Watershed Partnership asked people, “Have you heard what’s happening at the river?”

The GWP invited the public last Tuesday to a presentation by Science & Outreach Manager Kara Barron to bring the state of the river to the people.

Held at the Clifton Library, the presentation was well attended by the public.

Barron started with basics, describing exactly what is a watershed to the public and the mission of the GWP.

“Your watershed is the Upper Gila, and that’s this group’s focus,” Barron said.

She asked them what they thought they’d find on the San Francisco River. Trash was one of the replies, and Barron agreed. That’s why the GWP has been monitoring the condition of the river, thanks to a grant from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality….Read more