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Leading ecologists to examine human impacts on wetland habitats

May 22, 2002

Leading ecologists and environmental resource management officials from across the West will meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday, May 29, at the Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus Campus Union to discuss the best ways to assess impacts to riparian habitats, particularly in the Tonto National Forest. The forest includes both the Verde and Salt River basins.

The conference is the latest step in a review of the U.S. Forest Service's assessment of riparian, or streamside, habitats. The Forest Service is working with researchers from ASU's Polytechnic campus, the University of Arizona and the Rocky Mountain Experiment Station to examine assessment efforts and make recommendations on how to improve them. This workshop is an outgrowth of that study.

Professor John Brock, coordinator of the Sustainable Technologies and Resources Center at ASU's Polytechnic campus, said the work his group has performed, as well as the information that will be presented at the workshop, is vitally important to the state of Arizona. Almost 90 percent of the endangered species in the state and the Southwest live in riparian habitats. So every decision made by forestry officials to mitigate hazards has a widespread impact. And because almost 4 percent of the state's land is located within a riparian habitat, the economic implications are equally as important.

"The habitats are disproportionately important," said Brock. "Anything that human beings do to the habitats has a significant impact."

Riparian habitats can be altered by the effects of livestock grazing, mining, recreational off-road vehicle use, and damming of streams.

"We're looking at the different things they're measuring and making recommendations to them so when they are making land management decisions, they are based on science," said Brock.

The workshop will bring in scientists who have studied the topics extensively throughout the West.

Brock said the efforts are aimed at bridging the gap between the agencies and the people who are using the land in the riparian habitats. Ultimately, Brock said, the goal is to protect the land and its inhabitants.

The event is open to the media and public. Call Brock at (480) 727-1240 for more information.