Resource Management

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Working for wildlife.


 

 

Restoring the Flood Cycle
With the construction of Alamo Dam on the Bill Williams River in 1968, the historic flood cycle of the river was drastically altered. Waters were released according to the needs of humans with no consideration for the impacts to natural resources. In the early 1990s the multi-agency Bill Williams River Corridor Steering Committee was formed to help manage water flows to address many issues, including the needs of wildlife and habitat. As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers now operates the dam so that releases of water often mimic the historic flooding of the river.

The return of this critical ecological function - flooding - helped ensure the restoration of native vegetation along the river. Many plant species have evolved with flooding and depend on it for part or all of their life cycle. Managing the dam’s water releases to mimic historic flows helped in the protection and rejuvenation of what is today considered the last extensive native riparian forest on the lower Colorado River. Much of this forest is found on Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge.

This forest of cottonwoods and willow trees is important for many reasons. Along the river’s edge, the trees provide: shade that keeps water temperatures cool, important to spawning fish and other aquatic species; bird habitat for feeding, nesting and resting; home to a diversity of insects that are an important food source for many other species, both aquatic and terrestrial; and slowing of water flow, which helps trap nutrient-rich sediment. Thanks to the partnership efforts of many, this portion of the Bill Williams River continues to run wild and provide a home to a diverse array of native species.

Habitat Restoration

Mesquite bosque (spanish for forest) is an important part of the wildlife habitat along the Bill Williams River. Efforts to restore mesquite bosques will provide for increased utilization by migratory and resident songbird species as well as many reptile and mammal species. Several sites throughout the refuge are strong candidates for restoration and as opportunities arise, the refuge will plan projects to bring back the historic mesquite bosque habitat on the Bill Williams River Refuge.
 

Bringing Back the Fish
U.S. Fish and Wildife Service Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation biologists are working to recover  three species of threatened and endangered fish on the lower Colorado River: razorback suckers, desert pupfish and bonytail chubs. Brought in by the Dexter National Fish Hatchery, the young fish are kept at the refuge in a protected cove  where they will grow to approximately 12 inches. At this size, the fish have an increased chance of surviving predators when released into the mainstem of the river. Before the fish are released, they are outfitted with a PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag which they will carry throughout their life in the wild. Their movements are monitored using PIT tag reader arrays installed at several strategic locations along the river and its reservoirs. These arrays detect the tagged fish as they swim past. Data collected by the PIT tag arrays are used to develop population estimates and to gauge the success of the conservation effort. This also helps biologists learn more about the habitat needs of the fish, which  helps establish management priorities for the refuge.



* The Bill Williams River Corridor Steering Committee is a partnership of federal, state, private, and non-profit organizations working together to manage water releases from the Alamo Lake reservoir.