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Acres ranchers develop skills

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According to Susan Culp, a contractor for American Rivers in the Verde Valley, the Town of Camp Verde has a likely chance of earning a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area international designation.Residents of Rainbow Acres, known as ranchers, pose together in the on-property barn. The 50-acre Rainbow Acres facility houses over 90 developmentally disabled adults.

Surveys of avian populations along the Verde River — one of the state’s last perennial and free-flowing waterways — is required as part of the IBA application process and will begin this month. Additional surveys will be conducted throughout the year, occurring seasonally to coincide with the arrival of spring migrants, summer nesting behavior and fall migrations. Full-year resident birds will also be accounted for.


American Rivers has been working with Friends of Verde River Greenway and the Town of Camp Verde since 2015 to craft the IBA application, according to Culp. The project has also earned an endorsement by the Northern Arizona Audubon Society.

Culp said that during various “listening sessions” she determined that Camp Verde residents longed for wildlife watching opportunities but also recognized the importance of developing recreation sensitive to the Verde River habitat. Gaining an IBA designation, Culp added, would go a long way to proving the conservation significance of the area for resident and migratory birds.

Currently, the number and scope of the avian population is unknown, but if it is deemed noteworthy enough to warrant the highest international designation Camp Verde may see a boost in low-impact growth, according to Culp.

“To have an IBA of international significance, you have to have a certain number of species of significant concern,” Culp said. “Based on the data already gathered by other groups, it seems we have a pretty good shot at it.”

Culp believes that an IBA designation would fit well with community values and support sustainable recreation and tourism. According to research conducted by Tucson Audubon Society in 2013, Culp added, “watchable wildlife recreation activities contributed over $40 million toward retail sales, $22 million in salary and wages and supported almost 600 jobs in Yavapai County alone.”

According to Culp, Camp Verde’s IBA effort is singular in Arizona, being a community-driven initiative to provide watchable wildlife opportunities. Support and volunteer hours have come from local groups, landowners, land managers and citizens.

If approved, Camp Verde’s stretch of the Verde River will join two other regions of the river that boast IBA designations: The Lower Oak Creek IBA near Page Springs and the Tuzigoot IBA that runs along the Verde River through Clarkdale and Cottonwood.

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