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Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program Balancing Resource Use and Conservation
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Cibola NWR Unit #1

      Located South of Blythe in Arizona

Aerial view of the nature trail on Cibola NWR - Photo by ReclamationCover crop of alfalfa prior to restoration with native cottonwoods and willow – Photo by ReclamationAerial view of mass-transplanting demonstration and seed feasibility study plots - Photo by Reclamation

Since 1999, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have collaborated on several riparian habitat restoration and demonstration projects at the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in southwestern Arizona. Cibola NWR Unit 1 Conservation Area, encompassing nearly 950 acres, is located in one of the Refuge’s six management areas or “units” and includes agricultural fields, and partially improved and undeveloped lands.

The acreage in Unit #1 set aside for restoration has been divided into five areas. Area #1 (193 acres) includes active agricultural fields, existing (converted agriculture) cottonwood-willow cover type, and ongoing LCR MSCP research and demonstration projects. Area #2 (Hippy Fire) includes 338 acres that have been cleared as a result of the Hippy Fire. During 2013, 94 acres in the northern section of this cleared section were planted with cottonwood, willow and mesquite. Area #3 (Baseline 90) is 107 acres of undeveloped land and contains some native vegetation. Area #4 (North 160) is 158 acres which is now cleared, leveled, and planted with a cover crop. Area #5 (Crane Roost) is 154 acres and is planted with native cottonwood, willow, and mesquite.

Reclamation and USFWS have entered into a long-term agreement securing land and water resources for the 50-year life of the LCR MSCP. Substantial irrigation and infrastructure improvements were also made at the site to support long-term management of acreages of new riparian species.

At this site, Reclamation is primarily developing cottonwood/willow land cover type for endangered southwestern willow flycatchers, yellow-billed cuckoos, and a number of other native species, but will also cultivate a mosaic of native habitats including riparian, wetland, and riparian-upland interface areas. While the created habitats are those required by LCR MSCP-covered species, it is expected that other species that use or depend on cottonwood, willow, and mesquite habitats will benefit as well.

Approximately 85 additional acres within Area #2 (Hippy Fire) is scheduled to be planted in March 2016 with a mix of cottonwood, willow, and mesquite. After planting of the entire Conservation Area is complete, the habitat within the Conservation Area will be monitored, managed, and maintained for the 50-year life of the LCR MSCP. Reclamation and USFWS are also making provisions to ensure the habitat is maintained beyond that period.

A fact sheet for this Conservation Area can be found here. Technical Reports for this Conservation Area can be found here.

Updated January 7, 2020

Cibola Refuge is located approximately 15 miles south of Blythe, California and includes lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in both the states of California and Arizona.  Unit #1 is one of six management areas within the refuge and is located in Arizona one-half mile east of Colorado River at River Mile 97 or one-half mile west of the Refuge headquarters.

The Conservation Area is located on a portion of the Refuge that allows public access, but only on designated roads (such as Canada Goose Drive) to minimize disruption to wildlife.  Information on Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, including location, purpose, and regulations, can be found on their website at this link.

For specific information on the Conservation Area, please contact Terry Murphy, Restoration Group Manager, at (702) 293-8140 or via email at tmurphy@usbr.gov.

The image below shows a close up of the conservation area.

Cibola Refuge

Each Conservation Area targets certain LCR MSCP covered and evaluation species habitats. Below on the left is a list of the LCR MSCP species in which habitat will be targeted for creation for this particular conservation area. To the right is a list of LCR MSCP species that, through monitoring, have been found utilizing the conservation area.

Targeted LCR MSCP Species LCR MSCP Species Utilizing Site
Riparian Obligates Riparian Obligates
Arizona Bell's Vireo Arizona Bell's Vireo (breeding)
Elf Owl
Gila Woodpecker Gila Woodpecker (breeding)
Gilded Flicker
Sonoran Yellow Warbler Sonoran Yellow Warbler (breeding)
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
Summer Tanager Summer Tanager (breeding)
Vermilion Flycatcher Vermilion Flycatcher (breeding)
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (breeding)
Bats, Small Mammals, and Insects Bats, Small Mammals, and Insects
California Leaf-Nosed Bat (foraging)
Colorado River Cotton Rat Colorado River Cotton Rat (resident)
MacNeill's Sootywing Skipper (breeding)
Pale Townsend's Big-Eared Bat (foraging)
Western Red Bat Western Red Bat (foraging/roosting)
Western Yellow Bat Western Yellow Bat (foraging/roosting)

To date, approximately 365 acres of cottonwood-willow and honey mesquite have been established within Unit #1.  Irrigation, maintenance, and on-site management for the established habitat and areas within the 950 acres that will ultimately be restored are maintained throughout the year.  Irrigation typically begins in March and concludes at the end of October.

Procurement of cottonwood-willow, honey mesquite, and other riparian vegetation stock to restore 85 acres within the southern section of the Hippy Fire area is scheduled for 2015. Planting will occur during spring of 2016. Additional acreage will be converted annually until all 950 acres have been restored.

Bird Monitoring

Surveys for covered birds are conducted annually. During the late spring and summer, presence surveys are conducted for riparian birds to document use of the conservation area for nesting, foraging, and migration. Riparian birds monitored include the listed southwestern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo, and the following covered species: Arizona Bell’s vireo, Gila woodpecker, gilded flicker, Sonoran yellow warbler, summer tanager and vermilion flycatcher.

Mammal Monitoring

Small mammal live trapping is conducted annually to monitor presence of Colorado River cotton rats and desert pocket mice at the conservation area. Bat presence is monitored annually from June through August with remotely recording echolocation calls using a long-term Anabat™ station.

Insect Monitoring

Surveys are conducted for MacNeill’s sootywing skipper to document presence of the species in the conservation area.

Acreage Map

This map shows the acreage for this area. You can click on the map for a larger view.

Cibola NWR Unit #1 Acreage Map

This gallery includes photos of this conservation area. If you require larger photos, please contact our webmaster Michelle Reilly at mreilly@usbr.gov.