Management Strategies at Saguaro National Park

Invasive plant management is not a one-size-fits-all type of effort. For our efforts to succeed, we implement species-specific management strategies.
  • Prevent new invasions through washing of contractor vehicles, use of certified weed-free hay for stock, and use of weed-free soil and rock for construction projects.
  • Perform early detection and rapid response. Volunteers in the Weed Free Trails program augment Park Service efforts in this area by monitoring trails, removing small infestations, reporting larger infestations, and revisiting cleared sites for regrowth.
  • Eradicate existing infestations where possible to prevent fire, minimize ecological impact, and reduce their spread.
  • Control the spread of infestations that cannot be eradicated.
  • Promote restoration of native species and habitats in ecosystems degraded by invasive plants.
  • Cooperate and collaborate with neighbors to prevent potential re-infestations across park boundaries.
  • Inventory and monitor invasive plants to support analysis, to identify trends, and to develop management strategies.
  • Research new ways to improve our control techniques, such as helicopter delivery of herbicide in rugged, unstable, or hard-to-access terrain, and implement adaptive management strategies.
We implement the most appropriate control technique for each species and site, considering the extent of the invasion and the threat it represents. We ensure that the control is environmentally safe and supported by research.

The methods that we use are chiefly manual removal and chemical control. You may have seen teams of hardy buffelgrass removal volunteers, with gloves and tools, digging out the plants. Park Service staff and interns also apply an herbicide containing glyphosate during the growing season, when plants are over 50% green.

Prescribed fire is successfully used in other National Parks to control some of the same invasive plants. However, in desert areas of Saguaro National Park, where the native plants are not fire-adapted but the non-natives are, fire is less appropriate as a method of control. Biological controls, introducing another exotic species to control the invasive plant, such as goats to eat the grasses or insects to destroy the seeds, are not in current use.

There are opportunities throughout the year to help with buffelgrass management at Saguaro National Park, as well as other areas in and around Tucson. Activities include mapping buffelgrass infestations, participating in the Weed Free Trails program, joining monthly buffelgrass pulls (September-May), as well as education and outreach events. Contact the invasives species coordinator for more information about opportunities in the park.
Park Volunteers posing next to a patch of buffelgrass they removed at the Park.
2015 Beat Back Buffelgrass Day

NPS Photo

Last updated: November 3, 2022

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3693 S Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730


520 733-5153

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