Center for Biological Diversity receives grant to protect river

PHOENIX ‹ The Center for Biological Diversity received $80,000 Wednesday from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. The funds of this one-year grant will be used to support the Center's Save the Verde campaign to protect the water sources of the Verde River, and the wildlife that depends on it, from development and groundwater pumping.

"We are truly honored to have received this grant to expand our outreach and education on behalf of the Verde," said Michelle Harrington, rivers program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The gift allows us to maintain an office and staff in Prescott and will bring even more visibility to the campaign. Ultimately it will be the voices of citizens, asking our leadership to be accountable to us, that will do the most to protect the river, wildlife and quality of life of people in the region."

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust awarded $2.6 million to 26 Arizona nonprofit organizations Wednesday.

"Since the Trust began its grant-making in 1998, it has awarded more than $64 million to 309 Arizona nonprofit organizations. The Trust has continued to further the causes Nina Pulliam supported during her life. As trustees, we are pleased to continue her legacy of helping people in need, protecting animals and nature, and enriching community life," said Frank E. Russell, Pulliam trustee chairman.

The Center initially launched its Verde campaign last August, ramping up efforts to focus attention on Prescott and Prescott Valley's proposed water pipeline from the Big Chino Ranch northwest of Paulden. Scientists and citizens fear the groundwater pumping associated with the pipeline will dewater the Verde River. Because of the potential adverse impacts to wildlife listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Center believes moving forward with the pipeline will put the cities in violation of the law. The bald eagle, a small, migratory bird called the southwestern willow flycatcher, and native fish like the razorback sucker and spikedace are Verde-dependent species currently protected under the Act.

The Center wants Prescott and Prescott Valley to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare a Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. This type of formal plan, which includes mitigation to protect the flows of the Verde, would put the cities in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and allow them to move forward with the pipeline.

A SavetheVerde.org Web site offers information about the pipeline project and ways citizens can get involved. The site also has links to several scientific reports.

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