Press Release September 1, 2006
From: EC Bar Ranch, PO Box 44, Nutrioso, AZ 85932
(928) 339-4840
Contact: Jim Crosswhite
Subject: Conservation project outcomes on the EC Bar Ranch

Title: Conservation Pays Off

In 1996, when Jim Crosswhite purchased the EC Bar Ranch near Nutrioso in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona1, miles of Nutrioso Creek running through the property was degraded and polluted due to many years of over grazing by livestock and elk. The Arizona Game & Fish Department (AGFD) and US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) were concerned that habitat for the LC spinedace (listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act) and other native fish was rapidly becoming uninhabitable. In addition, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had placed Nutrioso Creek on the Clean Water Act, Section 303(d) list of impaired water bodies due to excessive levels of sediment (turbidity) caused by historical overuse by large ungulates, such as livestock and elk. When Crosswhite turned to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for help, the agency found 28 resource problems that needed treatment.

Concerned the LC spinedace could become "endangered", water quality could get worse, and ranching economics could suffer, Crosswhite decided to utilize public grant opportunities for the implementation of wildlife, water quality, and soil quality improvements recommended by the AGFD, ADEQ/EPA, NRCS, and FWS, including adoption of resource management plans. Over the last eight years, by writing grant applications, matching grant funds with his own money, working long hours, and adhering to strict criteria, Crosswhite has completed all recommended Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the AGFD Nutrioso Creek Fish Management Report2, ADEQ/EPA Nutrioso Creek TMDL for Turbidity Report3, FWS LC Spinedace Recovery Plan4, and the NRCS Arizona Resource Concerns & Quality Criteria Assessment for Crop and Pastureland5. He has adopted a Livestock Management Plan for rotational grazing, Irrigation Water Management Plan for efficient water use, Nutrient Management Plan for timely fertilizer applications, and a Pest Management Plan to control invasive species/noxious weeds as recommended by the NRCS. Additional funding and/or technical support was provided through the Arizona Department of Water Resources - Arizona Water Protection Fund (AWPF), State Land Department, Western Region Sustained Ag Research Educational program (WSARE), Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA), the US Forest Service and Apache Sitgreaves National Forest6. As a result, the 400-acre EC Bar Ranch is now distinguished by 3-miles of "legally restored" riparian area, the first such property in the State of Arizona7.

By mid-2006, the effectiveness of conservation practices looked very positive. Water quality had improved to the degree that ADEQ and EPA may soon remove the non-attaining section of Nutrioso Creek identified in the TMDL report from the 303(d) list8. Their action may be the first time a water body in AZ has ever been removed due to mitigation. The NRCS has not found any more resource concerns to be addressed, making the EC Bar Ranch the first to achieve this goal in Apache County. The FWS completed a Safe Harbor Agreement with Crosswhite, the first with a private landowner in AZ to protect wildlife habitat and monitor for 50-years9. Stream conditions improved over 10-years from a "nonfunctional" rating to "proper functioning condition" using the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) national rating criteria, which incorporates geomorphology, hydrology, vegetation, and soils into a functional condition score.10

Perhaps the biggest conservation pay off or benefit resulting from sustainable collaborative partnerships between governmental agencies and Crosswhite has been for the native fish living in Nutrioso Creek. After many years of drought, miles of stream flows have been reduced or dried up for many months each year threatening the survival of fish populations. In an April 2006 survey, AGFD found 70% of the LC spinedace in Nutrioso Creek were living on the EC Bar Ranch11. Then in June, as stream flows dried up due to severe drought conditions, acting with approval from Crosswhite, the AGFD and FWS captured all native fish downstream on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF) and relocated them to the EC Bar Ranch where their chances of survival were higher as a result of conservation practices recommended by governmental agencies and implemented by Crosswhite12. This action may be the first instance where a federally listed species has ever been relocated from public to private land in Arizona13.

Outreach efforts by Crosswhite have resulted in over 26,000 visits to the EC Bar Ranch website, over 400 people visiting the ranch14, a short film used by the ADEQ at grant workshops to describe projects15, numerous personal presentations16, and over 20 newspaper and magazine articles17. In a recent story about the Little Colorado River in the Arizona Republic, the author quoted Crosswhite as saying "I'm a conservationist, I don't believe in what the environmentalists say, that all the land would be better if there were no people using them. There's nothing else natural anymore, you have to manage it. You can't ignore it."18 This commitment to management is summarized on the website homepage: "In recent years, projects on the EC Bar Ranch have been implemented that demonstrate how the integration of conservation and sustainable agricultural practices can improve ranching economics, water quality, and wildlife habitat while meeting public policy objectives19. Outcomes have improved water quality and aquatic/wildlife habitat allowing state and federal agencies to take the unprecedented step of relocating native fish, including a federally listed species, from public lands to my ranch."20

Crosswhite believes after conservation practices have been implemented, then must be maintained, and says: "If the NRCS Conservation Security Program (CSP) is available in my watershed next year, stewardship funding guidelines will help ensure maintenance of successful wildlife habitat, water quality, soil quality, and management practices over the next 15 years. At the same time, I hope to protect the Conservation Values through a conservation easement in perpetuity. If other landowners in Nutrioso and elsewhere in Arizona cooperate with governmental agencies to meet public policy goals, they can improve their property and enhance natural resources just like I have. Clearly, conservation pays off."

1 See EC Bar Ranch website at and maps at link
Fish Management Report is at link
TMDL Report is at link
Recovery Plan is at link
Quality Criteria Assessment is at link
Conservation Project information is at
"Legally restored" riparian area definition is at
ADEQ letter recommending delisting is at link
Safe Harbor Agreement is at link
Proper Functioning Condition survey is at link
AGFD Fish Report, April 2006, is at link
AGFD Fish Report, July 2006, is at link
FWS letter dated August 24, 2006, is at link
Some field trips are listed at link
Film information is at link
Speeches are at link
Publicity is at link
McKinnon, Shaun. The Arizona Republic, August 6, 2006, Ruined Rivers: Little Colorado River
Conservation Project link is at
Practice outcomes are at link