Thursday, February 9, 2012

Restoring What We Love About Tucson

By Kara Kaczmarzyk, Volunteer & Development Coordinator

Restoration of our open lands and habitat management are vital to keeping southeastern
Arizona beautiful for generations of people and wildlife to come. While our conservation department works to preserve habitat in important bird areas, restoration picks up the other end. At Tucson Audubon Society, we target our restoration efforts on lowland riparian areas. Why riparian? These areas, near natural watercourses, are the most efficient use of our time since so many wildlife species use these lush spots. Using a combination of standard restoration techniques and innovative sustainability methods, we remove invasive plants while increasing the diversity and density of native vegetation in targeted areas.

Here, volunteers can get down and dirty (if they so desire), to plant native trees and shrubs, build water harvesting features, install rainwater runoff management, and much more.

Kendall Kroesen, Rodd Lancaster, and Matt Griffiths are out in the field almost daily throughout the year, at times they let others join in the fun. These are mainly during volunteer workdays called “TogetherGreen.” As you may know, TogetherGreen is a National Audubon project funded by Toyota. It provides us with the resources to engage a large public in Tucson Audubon’s targeted efforts and is a great way to meet other like-minded individuals in your area.

Be a TogetherGreen groupie and follow all our events! Groups of students and members of organizations like the Sierra Club, Tucson Clean and Beautiful, Sky Island Alliance, Tucson Cactus & Succulent Society, and Native Plant Society have already joined many, many community members to spend some time outdoors for our environment. These TogetherGreen volunteer workdays are usually scheduled on weekend mornings (Fall through Spring, early enough in the morning to avoid the heat of an Arizona winter day!).

Volunteer in restoration and you can really see the difference you make. You will also learn about wildlife habitat, native plants, and restoration techniques during these activities. Many of the skills learned in a day in the field can be brought back to your home. I look at my neighborhood’s (and my) yards much differently after seeing the rainwater runoff strategies employed in volunteer days and at our Mason Center.

I did my first restoration morning a couple of weeks ago during a Martin Luther King Jr. day of service, and it was great! Working alongside students from Lauffer Middle School, Sunnyside High School, and others, I pulled buffelgrass, an invasive, threatening weed from a wash behind Lauffer Middle School. The before (weed-ridden south-facing wash bank) and after (weeds hidden away in big black garbage bags, ready to be picked up by the city thanks to coordination by Caroline Patrick of Tucson Clean and Beautiful), was certainly rewarding. So was eavesdropping on some of the young volunteers: “Nature is kinda cool sometimes."

If you’ve done a few TogetherGreen’s in your day, or are specifically studying restoration techniques, and have a six-month (or longer) period to dedicate, the restoration department would love to get an addition to their weekly team. If you would instead prefer to check out the action from a safe distance, that’s great too! Take a camera & a sign-in sheet and help capture all the amazing work that gets done during TogetherGreen days. If restoration is something you are really passionate about and you have experience in administration, we are looking for a dedicated person to assist Kendall Kroesen, Habitats Program Manager, with all aspects of coordinating our annual restoration activities.

There are many ways to volunteer in the restoration field, and Tucson Audubon and our natural spaces are forever grateful for the impact made by the time, talent, and sweat of our volunteers! Please contact me at or by phone to 520-209-1811 to discuss available opportunities, I look forward to hearing from you.

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