As a 'pilot project' along the San Pedro River, this Global ReLeaf project helped jump-start planting at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area that continues to this day. An American version of the desert oasis, riparian habitats are extremely important but have diminished in the Southwest. BLM proposed to replant native trees to promote restoration of the fields to a natural community, and reactivate an existing well to provide drip irrigation. The trees would provide cover and forage for 365 bird species (33 of them threatened in Arizona), over 80 types of mammals, and 40 reptile/amphibian species. With a 1994 Global ReLeaf grant and help from local partners like the Friends of the San Pedro River, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was able to spark recovery of this important riverside community by planting fifteen acres of old farmland along the San Pedro. To nurture early growth, a temporary irrigation system was used to nurture young seedlings, an important feature given the site's arid climate. Since this project began, these trees have weathered adversity ranging from grasshoppers to gophers to drought, as well as the typical rough conditions of desert climate. Artificial irrigation of the site has subsided, and the trees now thrive on water obtained naturally, a sign that this project successfully reintroduced the native floodplain habitat on this small tract along the San Pedro. Help from ecology students at the University of Arizona has further encouraged restoration, while trimming branches and clearing dry brush (a.k.a. 'fuel reduction') reduces the chance of catastrophic wildfire, a notorious phenomenon in the West.
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