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Hundreds of species of birds—willow flycatchers, yellow-billed cuckoos and yellow warblers—have a new riparian habitat. And, in the process, the west has maintained the flow of the Colorado River.

The 350-acre Yuma East Wetlands project opened this summer, celebrating a milestone in the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP). The MSCP is a critically important program for the Colorado River, which provides more than 1.5 million acre-feet of water to the Central Arizona Project (CAP) each year.

 The project has been a textbook example of collaboration. The Yuma Wetlands is located on lands owned by the City of Yuma, Quechan Tribes, Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Construction and research funding came from 16 different sources. The project’s inclusion in the MSCP provides a shared, ongoing source of maintenance funding for the habitat.

Many of the MSCP habitat restoration projects are located in remote locations along the mainstream Colorado River. The Yuma East Wetlands is unique because it’s located near downtown Yuma and provides not only an important wildlife habitat, but also a recreational and economic amenity for both the city and greater Yuma County. Projects such as these help protect and restore river habitats while ensuring that water continues to flow in the area.

Today, the Yuma East Wetlands is a mosaic of different vegetation communities, including cottonwood, willow, honey mesquite and marsh. The project is located within the Pacific Flyway, a major migration route for hundreds of species of birds, and provides habitat for the western red bat, yellow bat and Yuma hispid cotton rat.

The wetlands provide opportunities for low impact recreation for residents and visitors who like to canoe, fish and hike. All the birds know is that they have a wonderful spot to stop as they migrate through the Pacific Flyway!

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