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Saguaro National Park to spray for buffelgrass

Posted: Friday, Jul 13th, 2012

TUCSON — Now that monsoon rains have brought dormant plants back to life, staff at Saguaro National Park will initiate the seasonal use of herbicides to control buffelgrass.

“The park has been using herbicides to control buffelgrass and other invasive non-native species since 2005,” according to Dana Backer, Restoration Ecologist at Saguaro National Park.

“We join many city, county, state, and other federal agencies spraying buffelgrass at this time of year as well.”

Buffelgrass is an aggressive, non-native grass that competes with native plants such as saguaros and palo verdes, and native Sonoran Desert plants. Buffelgrass can also carry hot and intense fires in an ecosystem that is not adapted to fire. As buffelgrass continues to spread, it threatens biological conservation efforts in the area and buffelgrass fires may also become a major threat to public safety and property. Buffelgrass is listed as a noxious weed by the state of Arizona.

There are two main ways to effectively control buffelgrass. The herbicide used by the park contains the active ingredient glyphosate and is absorbed only by green, actively growing leaves. If the grass is less than 50 percent green, manual removal is the best method. This slow, labor-intensive process alone cannot keep up with rapidly spreading buffelgrass.

The park plans to treat approximately 50 miles of roadway and 450 acres of park land in both the Tucson Mountains and Rincon Mountains during the next two to three months beginning July 17. A blue dye will be mixed with the spray to mark plants that have been treated. In the backcountry, herbicide is mixed on site using water from containers that have already been distributed by mules and helicopters for use by the crew members. If these containers are found, please do not disturb. Once the herbicide is dry, after approximately 15 minutes, the area is safe to enter. No public closures are anticipated. Additional invasive non-native plants such as fountain grass, natal grass, and African lovegrass will be treated opportunistically if they are encountered.

Park employees and volunteers, including local residents and groups such as the employees from Citigroup and TEP have been instrumental in helping to manually remove buffelgrass in the park. Tucson Clean and Beautiful also has been working with neighborhoods near the Park to remove buffelgrass from the surrounding areas.

For the complete article see the 08-01-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 08-01-2012 paper.

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