Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment
Saguaro National Park has evaluated land restoration strategies and treatments and their environmental impacts in a Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment. Disturbances causing impacts to park resources that require restoration can be natural (e.g., wildfires, floods) or human-caused (developments, invasive non-native plants, off-road vehicle use). Restoration strategies include a passive, facilitative, or active approach. Treatments (e.g., contouring, removing or planting plants, and use of herbicides) can be implemented using manual labor, mechanized ground-based equipment and tools, and/or mechanized aerial equipment and tools.
The park currently has over 2,000 acres of invasive non-native perennial grasses throughout its desert communities, including large patches (up to 50 acres) in remote sites that cannot safely be treated by ground-based crews. These grasses, primarily buffelgrass, are impacting the Sonoran Desert by decreasing native plant diversity and cover, which in turn degrades wildlife habitat. Buffelgrass invades the desert and occupies the spaces between native plants, ultimately displacing them and forming a continuous, very flammable, fuel source. With increasing fuel loads caused by invasive non-native plants, and a changing climate favoring warmer and drier conditions, the park is anticipating large-scale wildfires in the Sonoran Desert ecosystmes of the park, which are not adapted to wildfire. Furthermore, due to fire suppression policies, fuel levels have also built to unnaturally high levels in fire-adapted areas of the park (grasslands, woodlands and forest communities in higher elevations) and created conditions that could facilitate destructive wildfires even in these ecosystems.
In order to mitigate potential large-scale disturbances caused by wildfire in remote areas of the park, and restore native ecosystems and protect human health and property, the park is proposing to add aerial delivery of restoration treatments to current ground-based techniques.
Planning and Compliance Coordinator
Saguaro National Park
3693 S. Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730