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Saguaro National Park to use seasonal herbicide against fire-prone buffelgrass

Starting next Tuesday, Saguaro National Park will begin spraying herbicide to limit the spread of invasive buffelgrass. No park closures are expected due to the seasonal work against the fire-prone plant.... Read more»

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2 comments on this story

Jul 8, 2021, 4:59 pm
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Spraying herbicide there is actually an act of extermination against the desert because herbicide is toxic to plant life and those are not RoundUp-Ready Saguaro. Glyphosate is bad news and there’s just no point in spraying it. How about this—bring in goats to eat the grass. Common sense stuff. For real, don’t let them do this, it’s obviously a slow-motion Mithraist act of genocide against the native nation, like the poison water table by the airport.

Jul 8, 2021, 6:10 pm
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This article does not indicate just how serious the threat of buffelgrass and other invasive grasses is.  While I am no fan of glyphosate, if there ever was a time for it, it is now.  The “grassification” of our deserts is one of the most critical threats in the west.  These invasive grasses have no local competitors.  They fill in the spaces between our desert plants, giving wildfires a matrix upon which to spread.  It is fire adapted, while our desert plants are not.  This represents not just a threat to our desert ecosystem, but an economic one as well.  The loss of our desert ecosystem, including our iconic saguaros, is a real possibility, and this, in turn, would have measurable economic effects, by way of reduced tourism.  (Who is going to visit Saguaro NP if it doesn’t have saguaros?)  Additionally, when - not if - a fire comes roaring down the buffelgrass covered front range of the Catalinas, there will be no stopping it. Buffelgrass burns extraordinarily hot, throwing flames 20 feet or more into the air.  There will be a lot of pricey real estate that does not survive. After the fire, guess what we’ll have: a monoculture of buffelgrass, as it will re-sprout in no time, ready to fuel another fire, whereas the original desert plants will be gone.  The severity of the Bighorn fire was, in part, due to another invasive grass, red brome. We dodged a bullet that time, the fire being stopped before finding the vast buffelgrass stands, but the next lightning strike may very well spark a different outcome.
There are two ways to control buffelgrass, and goats, unfortunately, are not one of them.  One can dig it out, which is no small task, given its deep roots, and/or, for larger and/or inaccessible areas, apply herbicide, when the grass is 50% or more green.  Done correctly and carefully by trained personnel, other plants are not harmed.  Seed banks in the ground require that areas be treated repeatedly for multiple years.  There are volunteer networks (“Save our Saguaros”) who go about digging out this perennial grass, but one glance at the vast areas of coverage and it becomes clear: there’s no way all this grass can be removed by hand.  We’re going to have to use herbicide, unless we’re willing to undergo enormous ecosystem change and economic loss. There’s sinply no avoiding it.

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Bethany Hontz/National Park Service


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