New partnership adds farmland to help protect the Verde River

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As summer nears this year, the Verde is flowing strong. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) As summer nears this year, the Verde is flowing strong. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
'What we are doing we are putting this ground in a conservation easement,' Kevin Hauser explained. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) 'What we are doing we are putting this ground in a conservation easement,' Kevin Hauser explained. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
'[The Verde River] is a third of the drinking water supply for Phoenix,' Heather Reading of The Nature Conservancy said. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) '[The Verde River] is a third of the drinking water supply for Phoenix,' Heather Reading of The Nature Conservancy said. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
VERDE VALLEY, AZ (Arizona's Family) -

As she stands on the banks a steady flowing Verde River, Heather Reading with The Nature Conservancy remembers a time in the recent past when she would be standing next to a dry riverbed.

"It used to be the case that in the summer months you couldn’t float the river in a kayak."

Reading says that wasn't just bad news for recreation enthusiasts, it was bad news for all of us.

"[The Verde River] is a third of the drinking water supply for Phoenix," she explained.

But as summer nears this year, the Verde is flowing strong thanks in large part to farmers like Kevin Hauser at Hauser and Hauser Farms.

"Drip irrigation has been one of the things we started several years ago," he said.

But, aside from conserving, Hauser is now helping to preserve the river.

"What we are doing we are putting this ground in a conservation easement," Hauser said. "It is basically selling the development rights, all the future development rights, to this ground forever."

It's part of a deal between The Nature Conservancy and other partners.

Hauser just added nearly 600 acres to his property, which is already the largest remaining family farm in the Verde Valley, and those development rights played a big part in it.

"The problem here in Arizona, especially this valley, [land] is terribly expensive. It is so overpriced in terms of agriculture," Hauser says. "We are able to sell our development rights and bring the cost per acre way down to a level that is manageable."

That means the land can be farmed, but nothing else.

"It can be sold. It can be traded. But it will always be open; there will be no houses, no subdivisions, no golf courses or swimming pools," Hauser said.

Those acres also connect already preserved land, helping keep wild animals out of more populated areas, according to Reading.

"It is really important that we have these wild places that provide big corridors for wildlife species to move, including birds like the willow catcher and yellow-billed cuckoo."

It's all helping keep a river we all depend on flowing and healthy.

"So it is a win for us. It is a win for everyone who likes to see green instead of rooftops." Hauser said.

Other partners include the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD). The deal was funded in part by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.


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