Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Nail in the Coffin of Invasive Grasses

Kendall Kroesen

Many canyons and washes in the Tucson area are infested with fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), an ornamental grass imported from Africa. Tucson Audubon is working to remove it from the bottom of Esperero Canyon (between Ventana and Sabino Canyons in the Santa Catalina Mountains), where we own 15 acres of land. By doing the work Tucson Audubon is setting an example for surrounding landowners, and also training many volunteers to recognize fountain grass. The work is rewarding and the scenery here is unbeatable.

Esperero Canyon (photo by Matt Brooks)

On Saturday, September 11, one staff member and 18 volunteers trekked into the canyon. We swept up the canyon through an area cleared earlier, pulling out any regrowth. Then we reached a heavily infested area where we hadn't worked yet. We made a heavy dent in the fountain grass population.

Brian Nicholas and others tackle a badly infested area.

Clearing fountain grass will allow more space and moisture for native vegetation. We are only just beginning to catalogue the botanical treasures of the canyon with the help of botanist Jim Verrier, manager of the native plant nursery at Desert Survivors. He has found about 140 species so far, some of them rare in the region. We hope to find many more as we reclaim this canyon for the natives!

This was our first TogetherGreen volunteer day of the year. TogetherGreen is a program of National Audubon, funded by Toyota. Volunteer days are designed to take on important conservation projects while introducing new people to the Audubon movement.

We would particularly like to thank the United Way and volunteers from Davis Monthan Air Force Base. For this volunteer day we teamed with United Way's Days of Caring program, which matched us with volunteers from the base. Twelve volunteers from the "DM" contributed a lot of muscle power to the effort!

There will be many more opportunities to volunteer with Tucson Audubon on projects like this. For more information contact me at 971-2385 or

Saturday's volunteer team celebrates victory in an area cleared of the grass!


  1. How does it feel to be rated one of the 20 Worst Charities in the country? Congrats!

  2. A journalist recently jumped on the fact that our 2007-08 IRS Form 990 included outreach activities as part of our admin expenses, which pushed the admin figure to an artificially high number. Our 2008-09 figure separates outreach into its own program area, bringing our admin expenses back down to 14.5%(or 11% using GAAP). You can read the full story and view our 2008-09 financials here:


Thanks, we value your opinions! Your comment will be reviewed before being published.