July 20, 2015
Dana Backer, 520-733-5179
Tucson, AZ –With the recent increase in moisture brought on by monsoon rains, conditions are optimal for seasonal restoration work to resume in Saguaro National Park. The park will be using groundbased field crews to apply herbicide on buffelgrass and improve conditions for native plants.
Buffelgrass is an aggressive, non-native grass that competes with many Sonoran Desert native plants for water, light and nutrients. Buffelgrass also carries hot and intense fires in an ecosystem that is not adapted to fire. Buffelgrass is a serious threat to biological conservation efforts and buffelgrass fires could become a major threat to public safety and property. Buffelgrass is listed as a noxious weed by the state of Arizona.
Buffelgrass management efforts in the park continue to be successful. Overtime, there has been a reduction in buffelgrass in areas that were once densely infested. Furthermore, these areas no longer require as much investment in labor and resources. This allows park employees to restore additional areas that are infested with buffelgrass. Saguaro National Park, along with Catalina District of the Coronado National Forest and Southern Arizona Bufffelgrass Coordination Center, were recent recipients of a Department of Interior grant to help build a fire resilient landscape by removing flammable buffelgrass fuel.
Park employees and volunteers, including local residents and groups have been instrumental in helping to manually remove buffelgrass in the park. Tucson Clean and Beautiful, Sonoran Desert Weed Wackers, and Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center are just a few of the many groups working to control buffelgrass in the greater Tucson community.
Using ground-based herbicide control, park plans to treat approximately 50 miles of roadway and 300 acres of park lands in both the Tucson Mountains and Rincon Mountains during the next 2 to 3 months beginning in mid-July. No public closures are anticipated. An area is safe to enter as soon as the herbicide dries which is within 15 minutes after application. A blue dye will be mixed with the spray to mark plants that have been treated.
The park will commence the use of a helicopter for aerial herbicide application where buffelgrass infestations are on steep and often dangerous terrain in remote areas of the park. Aerial spraying is planned for later this summer. Additional information will be released as it becomes available, specifying locations, dates and any potential closures. These treatment plans were approved for use in an Environmental Assessment, which can be viewed at https://www.nps.gov/sagu/learn/management/restoration-plan.htm