Cocopah to get grant for river restoration
“The project helps to restore the native riparian, wetland and aquatic habitats by removing non-native plants and revegetating 30 acres with native plants. This will help restore habitat for both resident and migratory wildlife species along the Lower Colorado River,” said Cheryl L. Bradstreet, Cocopah Indian Tribe director of communications.
“The Limitrophe region of the Lower Colorado River, including the corridor along the Cocopah Indian Reservation, has been modified extensively by over a century of flood control, water diversion and agricultural activities, which have affected the native vegetation and wildlife that depend on it.”
The activities have impacted native stands of cottonwood, willow, mesquite and a variety of native grass, forb and shrub communities. Loss of this native habitat has furthered the proliferation of non-native species such as salt cedar and giant cane, causing the ecological integrity of this system to be compromised.
The use of hydroelectric power and various water management projects has also had a detrimental effect on the wetland areas by causing a radical loss of water flow, which deteriorated to the point of being inaccessible and therefore, useless to tribal members and the general public, Bradstreet said.
Another issue is the close proximity to the Mexican border.
“This area is one of the most ecologically altered riparian landscapes in the Southwest due to flow regulation, channelization, non-native species invasion, wildfires and illegal trash dumping and smuggling,” Bradstreet said.
“Initiating this restoration project could provide a new opportunity to mitigate the undesirable activities on the site.”
The project will also give tribal members direct access to the river, Bradstreet said.
“Along with restoring habitat for wildlife, another goal of the project is to provide recreational, cultural, interpretive and educational opportunities. This was once an important element in Cocopah culture, but the Colorado River has since become virtually inaccessible to tribal members and the public due to non-native species overtaking the natural habitat.”
According to Bradstreet, using the AWPF and other federal and foundation grants, the tribe has invested over $500,000 to restore native habitat in the area.