The maintenance of existing habitat, the development of new habitats, and the management of these newly created habitats are key components of the Lower Colorado River Multi-species Conservation Program (LCR MSCP). By creating and maintaining habitat, species native to the Colorado River may continue to thrive in increasing numbers. This reduces the likelihood of river management actions resulting in adverse affects to additional species and requiring Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection. Additional species will also benefit from these Habitat Conservation Plan activities, including migratory birds, shorebirds, waterfowl, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and native plants. These efforts not only benefit fish, wildlife, and native plants, they also enhance local communities by providing areas for recreation uses that are compatible with the goals of the program.
Maintaining Important Existing Habitat Areas
To ensure the continued existence of covered species within the planning area and to allow for future increases in their abundance, it is important that existing habitat areas are maintained through the life of the program to prevent future degradation or loss of habitat. To ensure resources are available to restore degraded habitats, funds are contributed annually by non-federal partners from Arizona, California, and Nevada for the first ten years of the program. When fully funded, this existing habitat maintenance fund will provide $25,000,000 to restore degraded habitats. This unique partnership allows the fund to continue to draw interest until needed. In coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the LCR MSCP program is currently developing detailed selection and implementation criteria for future projects. Types of activities that could be funded, starting in FY2016, include construction of infrastructure for water delivery, maintenance of marsh vegetation, removal of undesirable non-native vegetations, or dredging of backwaters.
Creating and Maintaining New Habitat
Creating and managing new habitat areas generally targets the establishment of one to four specific land cover types: cottonwood-willow, honey mesquite, marsh, or backwater. Over time and through active management, the newly established vegetation types develop into habitat benefitting wildlife and fish. For terrestrial restoration and marshes, trees, shrubs, and groundcover are typically planted or seeded to create the desired vegetation. Maturation and management of these riparian land cover types ultimately create the habitat. For backwaters, which include open water and associated emergent marsh, the evaluation of the physical, chemical, and biological conditions suitable for the establishment and maintenance of healthy native fish populations define the habitat. Management activities include implementing artificial flooding regimes, reducing fuel loads, and monitoring and removing invasive species.
For the LCR MSCP, habitat creation goals based on species specific conservation measures include establishing a minimum of 5,940 acres of cottonwood-willow, 1,320 acres of honey mesquite, 512 acres of marsh, and 360 acres of backwater. To the extent practicable based on site conditions, cottonwood-willow, honey mesquite, marsh, and backwaters will be restored in proximity to other land cover types creating integrated mosaics of habitat approximating the relationships among aquatic and terrestrial communities historically present along the LCR floodplain.
Updated November 26, 2012