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Contact: Estee Rivera Murdock, (520) 733-8613
Tucson, AZ – Starting on Tuesday, August 19, visitors to Saguaro National Park may see a low flying helicopter as aerial delivery of herbicides is initiated to control buffelgrass in certain areas of the park. The National Park Service recently approved a Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment that includes aerial application of herbicide to control invasive non-native plants in places deemed unsafe or too remote for control by ground crews (see maps). Ground-based crews will continue to control invasive non-native plants in accessible areas.
Aerial herbicide application is weather dependent, but scheduled to occur betweenAugust 19 and 29, at locations in both the Rincon Mountain (East) and Tucson Mountain (West) districts of the park. The sites targeted for spraying in the Rincon Mountain District are about 0.1 mile from where the recent Jackalope Fire was started by a lightning strike. "If these buffelgrass patches had ignited, it could have carried fire downslope into the fragile Sonoran Desert" says park Restoration Ecologist, Dana Backer. She adds, "Controlling buffelgrass is a high priority for the park because of the fire risk, and displacement of native plants and wildlife habitat and food." The Tanque Verde Ridge Trail will be closed during aerial herbicide applications.
Aerial herbicide applications are also planned for the Panther Peak area in the Tucson Mountain District. During the time of application, the Roadrunner Trail, Panther Peak Wash Trail, and other access to the south side of Panther Peak will be signed and closed. Closure notifications will also be posted at the State Land Access point on Ina Road.
According to Backer, "Key plant species, such as saguaros, will be surveyed shortly before and after aerial herbicide applications, and will be monitored into the future to assess any potential impacts to native plants. Buffelgrass will also be monitored at these sites to ensure the effectiveness of the aerial herbicide application. Results from these studies will inform future management actions."
Additional information on buffelgrass and the threat it poses to the park, as well as the park's Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, are available on the park's website at: www.nps.gov/sagu/parkmgmt/