National Public Lands Day Takes On Trash, Invasive Species At The Salt River

By Scott Bourque
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2019 - 3:24pm
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2019 - 3:28pm

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A poster at a National Public Lands Day observance along the Lower Salt River.
Scott Bourque / KJZZ
A poster at a National Public Lands Day observance along the Lower Salt River.

Several environmental and recreation groups set up exhibits along the Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest to observe National Public Lands Day.

Scott Wood and Patti Fenner with Friends of the Tonto National Forest
Scott Bourque / KJZZ
Scott Wood and Patti Fenner with Friends of the Tonto National Forest.

Scott Wood and his wife Patti Fenner spend a lot of time in the Tonto National Forest photographing the environment, mapping the spread of invasive species, and cleaning litter.

They’re volunteers with Friends of the Tonto National Forest, a group that emphasizes resource management and maintaining the forest’s ecosystem.

“We’re just one of many that work with the Forest Service,” Wood said. “We do a lot of invasive species work, mapping, monitoring and removing. There are a number of species around here that are very critical to the future of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.”

The invasive species are usually spread unintentionally through a variety of different methods. One of the most concerning, Wood says, is buffelgrass. It’s known for spreading wildfires through the desert. There are several species of invasive grass causing problems.

“They change the fire management regime,” he said. “Part of what we do is to try to help maintain the ecosystem that we have out there — try to maintain species habitat, to help the forest manage what they’ve got, help improve it, and some of it is to help bring it back.”

Nicole Corey and her nonprofit Natural Restorations focus on the damage caused by people. Volunteers from Natural Restorations, which works with military veterans, spent part of the weekend removing trash from the river.

The display hosted by Friends of the Tonto National Forest.
Scott Bourque / KJZZ
The display hosted by Friends of the Tonto National Forest, which highlights their Riparian Photopoint Monitoring program that takes a photo of the same place at different times over the course of many years.

“Our whole mission is to remove trash, graffiti, and anything foreign to the environment from outdoor and wilderness recreation areas while enriching the lives of military veterans and other community members,” Corey said. “(We) got a couple hundred volunteers coming out. There’s trash up in the trees and everything, so it’s really the perfect time to have a cleanup.”

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