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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Hualapai Tribe


Hualapai Tribe, Northwestern Arizona

The Hualapai Reservation, on approximately one million acres of land in northwestern Arizona and 108 miles of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, will be a first-time participant in the section 319 grant program in 1997. The Hualapai Department of Natural Resources will be responsible for accomplishing the program on the Hualapai Indian Reservation.

Flight of the burros

The Spencer Creek subbasin is located directly west of the Diamond Creek/Peach Springs Canyon subbasin and covers about 240 square miles. Spencer Creek is the largest perennial stream on the reservation. The creek and its tributaries, the Meriwhitica, Milkweed, and Hindu canyons, drain a large part of the Hualapai Plateau. The land changes from a high elevation pinon-juniper forest on the southern end to high- desert vegetation along the Colorado River, the northern boundary of the reservation. Many feral burros live on the reservation: 17 were counted in an April 1996 reconnaissance of the drainage. The predominant land uses in this subbasin are cattle grazing and recreation. The confluence of Spencer Creek and Lake Mead is a popular camping spot for Colorado River trips and recreational lake boaters.

Coaxing the flight

The removal of 90 percent of the feral burros in the Spencer Creek subbasin is a major undertaking for this project. Removal methods include the use of helicopter net guns and riding herd on the burro by horseback. The roundup is necessary to prevent fecal contamination of the creek and to protect the basin's wetlands, restoring the native vegetation and providing important habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The actual project will require three days using a helicopter. During the first four hours, the helicopter crews will haul fence panels down to Indian Gardens to make a temporary holding pen. Then they will net all burros encountered in Spencer Canyon and transport them by helicopter to the holding pen for relocation to other areas. Estimates are that this step will require approximately 16 hours.

Previous projects to remove burros and wild horses from the reservation have been successful. However, the animals regain their original numbers in approximately 10 years. In the meantime, the Department is developing plans to prevent the buildup of these feral populations, and the woody riparian vegetation now lost to overgrazing will have an opportunity to mature. Selected sites will be observed for vegetation recovery. Removal of the burros from Spencer Canyon will immediately improve wetland plants and water quality throughout the Spencer Creek drainage. Project managers will monitor its effects by pre- and postremoval photographic documentation.

The project is expected to enhance approximately 321 acres of wetland habitat along the lower reaches of the creek. These areas serve as forage, nesting, and cover grounds for migrating waterfowl and neotropical migrants.

Hualapai Department of Natural Resources
(520) 769-2255

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