The Upper Gila River is relatively unregulated and as such, is sensitive to both natural and anthropogenic stressors, such as flooding, non-native plant invasion, and various land-use practices such as urban encroachment.
The planning area stretches 120 miles of the upper Gila River above San Carlos Reservoir, as well as the lower 40 miles of the San Francisco River, its major tributary. The Gila Valley is the primary focus of the current restoration work.
The current restoration project is designed to preemptively restore native vegetation prior to the beetle induced defoliation of the tamarisk and provide demonstration projects for continued efforts to enhance riparian habitats in cost-effective ways. The first sites selected for the Gila River Restoration Program in 2013 were two locations near Ft. Thomas. Sites were selected based on the sufficient amount of native species despite the prevalence of Tamarisk, with the first area of focus being a site burned in the 2013 Clay Fire.