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Sonoran Desert Weedwackers

On January 28, 2012, the fifth annual Beat Back Buffelgrass Day was held in Tucson. At more than 20 sites, volunteers dug out buffelgrass to protect the Sonoran desert. Watch the 3-minute video documenting the work at the Rillito River where the UA softball team helped with the effort in 2011.

The Sonoran Desert Weedwackers started in 2000 as a small group of committed individuals whose objective was to remove non-native fountain grass and buffelgrass from the washes and roadsides of Tucson Mountain Park, a 30,000 acre Sonoran Desert natural preserve a few miles west of Tucson. Since that time, the Weedwackers have become well-known in the invasive weed management community for their successful removal of tons of invasive grasses from the Tucson Mountain Park. Areas where dense buffelgrass was removed in 2001 now support native grasses and wildflowers.

The Weedwackers are supported by Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation and the Tucson Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society. Members of the group perform weed attacks three times a month, digging out clumps of buffelgrass and the piling rocks on top of the piles of dug-out grasses. The group now has been returning to sites that were cleared years ago and removing the smaller plants. Some areas of Tucson Mountain Park have been cleared three times and are now free of the invasive grass.

The teams of local residents often include other community groups, including the Boy Scouts of America, Rotary, college students on break, and Sierra Club service groups. In the last twelve years, the Sonoran Desert Weedwackers have removed an estimated 400 tons of invasive grasses, keeping Tucson Mountain Park safer from fire and protecting the unique Sonoran desert plant community. There are now weedwacking groups working almost every month throughout Tucson.

Learn more about the efforts to fight back the buffelgrass invasion at the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center (SABCC).

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers in Tucson Mountain Park

The Weedwackers in Tucson Mountain Park work the third Saturday of every month. Pima County staff provide digging bars and gloves; the group is transported to the worksite by a Pima County van. Volunteers learn the difference between native and invasive grasses onsite. Experienced Weedwackers demonstrate the proper digging techniques in the field.

To get involved in Pima County, send a message to the Tucson Mountain Weedwacker volunteer coordinator Marilyn Hanson. Download a brochure which explains more about the Weedwackers' efforts.

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers in Saguaro National Park-East

This group works on the second Saturday from September to May. They meet at the Visitor Center of the Rincon Mt. District (east side). Tools and gloves are provided. Contact Saguaro National Park-East by email. Read about the Fight to Save Saguaros at Saguaro National Park using hand-pulling and herbicides.

Weed Free Trails Program in Saguaro National Park

The goal of WEED FREE TRAILS is to hike the Saguaro National Park trails network, eradicating exotic and invasive plants that threaten the native ecosyste. Volunteer weed-free trail monitors will hike and examine trail segments a minimum of 4 times a year, independently and on a very flexible schedule. To register for the orientation or for more information, contact Eric Lassance by email. To download a flyer describing the program, click here.

The Waterman Restoration Project--IFNM

A concentrated project “Save the Watermans” was organized by the Friends of the Ironwood Forest working jointly with the BLM, with FIF attracting volunteer labor and supervision and BLM providing logistic and tool support. The project is focusing on eradication efforts in the Waterman Mountains until all stands of buffelgrass are snuffed out! A heavily disturbed site now called the Waterman Restoration Site received massive resources to rid the area of buffelgrass. Starting in July 2010, AZNPS members working with John Scheuring are restoring the native flora on this site. For a full report, click here. Contact John Scheuring by email to get involved.


Friends of Ironwood Forest--IFNM
Friends of Ironwood Forest periodically organizes buffelgrass "pulls" on IFNM. Currently they are concentrating on a large infestation at the Cerrito de Represso at the south end of IFNM. Tucson Audubon Society teams with the Friends of Ironwood Forest and the BLM for this activity. To join this group in the buffelgrass battle, contact Lahsha Brown by email.


Phoenix Weedwackers- Phoenix Mountain Preserves

The Phoenix Weedwackers is a volunteer group formed to help eradicate invasive species like buffelgrass from the Phoenix Mountain Preserves. The Phoenix Weedwackers started their work in December of 2006 at Piestewa Peak in Phoenix. With an average of 20 volunteers a month they have made a significant impact around the trailhead and entrance areas of Piestewa Peak. To learn more about the group and scheduled weed pulls, check out their website or contact the coordinator Claudia Bloom .


Safety Guidelines for Weedwacking Groups

Safety considerations vary depending on the location of the weedwacking, such as roadside activity compared to open desert. Download the safety guidelines for your group and revise for your specific location.

Weedwacking Guidelines for Boy Scout Eagle Projects

Weedwacking activities are very appropriate for BSA service projects, conservation badges and Eagle Projects. For an example of suggested guidelines for an Eagle Project, download here.

Meeting Times for the Weedwackers

8:00am January-February, November-December
7:00am March-May, September-October
6:00am June-August

To see photos of the Sonoran Desert Weedwackers fighting back against the invasive grasses, click here to see slideshows of areas where they have been working.

Weedwackers removing buffelgrass from Tucson Mountain Park

Buffelgrass presents one of the greatest threats to the health and biodiversity of our Sonoran Desert. With your help and muscle power, you could be part of this outstanding effort to protect the desert.