The Altar Valley in southcentral Arizona was once a iallgrass prairie. Overgrazing prevented fire and spread mesquite, allowing the area, now a savanna, to be heavily used by tree-nesting raptors in summer and heavily hunted by perch-hunting raptors in winter. The breeding raptor community (over 150 pairs) consists primarily of red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), and Swainson's hawks (Buteo swainsoni). Common ravens (Corvus corax) are also common and there is a recently discovered small population of black-shouldered kites (Elanus caeruleus). Recent efforts to restore the endangered masked bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) to the area clash with habitat needs of the raptors. This conflict focuses attention on the 'multiple use' concept and calls for implementation of a 'prime use' or 'highest and best use' management strategy. Prime use (this is the only area in the United States managed for the masked bobwhite) 'will likely call for the removal of trees over much of the Altar Valley. This removal will likely result in the nearly total loss of nesting and perching sites for breeding, migrating, and wintering raptors.
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Should we terminate an 'artificial,' tree-nesting raptor population in Arizona?