NUTRIOSO, ARIZONA. September 24, 2009. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the recommendation from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to remove Nutrioso Creek above Nelson Reservoir from the list of over 125 water bodies in Arizona that do not meet water quality standards. An ADEQ spokesperson stated in a letter to Jim Crosswhite, EC Bar Ranch: “This is the first instance in Arizona where a waterbody has been delisted as a result of voluntary mitigation efforts. ADEQ appreciates the time, effort, and dedication you have shown to improving the water quality of Nutrioso Creek.”

Since July 2000, when the ADEQ completed the Nutrioso Creek TMDL for Turbidity Report, Mr. Crosswhite voluntarily implemented all state and federal recommendations to improve water quality and aquatic/wildlife habitat on 3-miles of Nutrioso Creek on the EC Bar Ranch, Nutrioso, in eastern Arizona. Historic over grazing by livestock and elk had caused severe erosion of streambanks leading to non-functional riparian conditions and high levels of turbidity that reduced water quality for riparian dependent wildlife, including a federally listed fish species.

Mr. Crosswhite implemented a wide range of best management practices on the EC Bar Ranch that included: (1) construction of fencing to control livestock and elk from overgrazing riparian vegetation, (2) installation of off-channel wells and drinkers so that large ungulates would not enter the creek for daily waterings, (3) willow, cottonwood, and grass plantings along the stream channel to restore natural conditions that reduce erosion and filter sediment, and (4) adoption of livestock, fertilizer, and invasive species management plans recommended by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In addition to mitigating water quality concerns on his own property, Mr. Crosswhite collaborated with the US Forest Service to plant thousands of willows along six miles of incised streambanks on the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF) downstream that helped reduce erosion and improve water quality.

Not only was water quality recovered through his efforts, but aquatic/wildlife habitat was restored to a high level. In 2006, after two years of severe drought, most native fish above and below the EC Bar Ranch were at risk of extinction. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) captured hundreds of threatened native fish trapped in pools on the National Forest downstream and released them in restored sections of Nutrioso Creek on the EC Bar Ranch. A USFWS spokesman stated: “The practice of salvaging a listed species from public land and repatriating the species to private land is rarely warranted and demonstrates your commitment to threatened and endangered species. AGFD and the Service recognize that this practice can only occur because of the quality of habitat your reach of Nutrioso Creek provides. In fact, it may be the only instance where this has occurred in Arizona with a federally listed fish species.”

To remain viable in the ranching business, Mr. Crosswhite developed collaborative partnerships with state and federal agencies to voluntarily mitigate water quality and aquatic/wildlife habitat concerns, improve ranching infrastructure, and preserve open spaces and natural resources. Now that Nutrioso Creek is functioning properly and water quality has recovered, Mr. Crosswhite plans to donate a conservation easement to a qualified land trust organization to prevent building or development on 94 acres that includes 3-miles of Nutrioso Creek riparian corridor. The land trust will monitor and enforce easement provisions to protect conservation values for the benefit of natural resources and the public in perpetuity.

Hundreds of people have visited improvement projects on the EC Bar Ranch, including a former Governor, legislators, media, and the public. See the website for information.

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Contact: Jim Crosswhite, , 928-339-4840
Supporting documentation enclosed:

  1. ADEQ letter to Mr. Crosswhite dated 8/27/09
  2. ADEQ letter dated 8/28/06
  3. USFWS letter dated 8/24/06
  4. EPA article dated 6/07

Rectangular Callout: A high resolution photo is available upon request