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  • Fight to save saguaros goes beyond February

    Feb 23, 2023 | Read More News
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    February may be almost over, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to help save Pima County’s favorite tall, spiky plants. 
    Every February, Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation (NRPR) teams up with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Clean & Beautiful and other community partners for Save Our Saguaros Month. The campaign organizes all-volunteer buffelgrass pulls to help protect native plants like saguaros from invasive grasses. 

    saguaros at Catalina State Park

    “Everyone loves saguaros because they’re so iconic,” said NRPR invasive species program coordinator Ellie Schertz, who organizes Pima County’s volunteer group, the Sonoran Desert Weedwackers. “But buffelgrass is really a threat to all of our native plants.” 
    The campaign launched Feb. 4 with events running through March 4. But there are volunteer buffelgrass events all year long, including regular pulls in Catalina State Park and Saguaro National Park. 
    Buffelgrass was introduced to Arizona for erosion control nearly a century ago, and it has spread over much of the Sonoran Desert in recent decades. It is now listed as a Class C noxious weed by the state of Arizona. 
    The plant presents a triple threat to native plants: It swipes water from them, it worsens wildfires by burning easily, and it quickly sprouts again after fires. 
    Animals largely do not eat buffelgrass, so if it isn’t pulled, there’s little to stop it from spreading wherever the wind carries its seeds. As buffelgrass spreads across the landscape, native plants start to disappear. That, in turn, means less food for wildlife. 
    “It outcompetes our native plants, and it doesn’t provide good habitat for our wildlife,” Schertz said. 
    The Weedwackers meet three times a month to pull buffelgrass in Tucson Mountain Park: the second and fourth Wednesday and the third Saturday of the month. 
    “We say that Saturday is the easiest day for new people, and Wednesdays are for longer hikes and steeper slopes,” Schertz said. 
    Volunteers should wear long sleeves and long pants, a hat, and sturdy shoes. Bringing a refillable water bottle also is recommended. 
    For more information about the Weedwackers, email Ellie Schertz at Ellie.Schertz@pima.gov. Visit the Desert Museum’s website to find a list of local volunteer groups and a schedule of upcoming buffelgrass pulls