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A 1995 report concluded that the southwestern cottonwood-willow forest is one of North America's most endangered ecosystems.

Riparian areas, instead of being lush green oasis in the hot dry climate, are void of vegetation, eroding and, frequently as dry as uplands.

Streams are the arteries of life in the arid Southwest. Today these once biologically rich areas are in the "worst shape in history," according to the EPA, the result of being clogged with cattle for a century or more. The cottonwood/willow gallery forest has declined by an estimated ninety-five percent from pre-settlement times. Despite making up only one percent of the arid Southwest, river forests provide clean water and critical wildlife habitat.

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