Monday, November 23, 2015

Sabino Stewards tackle more grasses

Text and photos from Mark Hengesbaugh

A special thanks goes to Sabino Stewards Janis Findlay, Tim Ralph, Cindy Rupp, Wayne Klement, Jeffrey Hahn, Barbara Lacey, Tim Wernette, Brian Desautels, Dan Granger, Tom Skinner, and Paul Kriegshauser. Each one of these volunteers shouldered heavy, sloshing backpacks at dawn in order to hike up Sabino Creek and the main road identifying and spot-treating invasive grasses that threaten to overrun Sabino’s native vegetation.

Brian, chest deep in invasive Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum)

This fall Stewards spent 207.5 hours spray-treating perennial invasive grasses from Tram Stop 9 to the southern boundary of the recreation area and several infestations that are away from the road and creek, such as the new SARA trail. We have also treated African sumac (Rhus lancea) in the Sabino Dam area. It’s worth noting—because visitors sometimes ask—that we are using the herbicide Rodeo which has been tested by the EPA and approved for sensitive aquatic environments. Rodeo (or its generic equivalent) is preferred by land management agencies because it doesn’t persist in the soil long-term, doesn’t move from plant to plant, and doesn’t work its way into the water table. We use a solution diluted to 5 percent so the total amount of active ingredient is very low—ounces per acre.
In the bigger picture, USFS Invasive Species Coordinator Chrissy Pearson is managing contractors who are treating Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) and Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) on steep slopes and remote areas of the rec area and the district. So an active strategy is in place and functioning.

Those specks of color are Janis, Cindy, and Brian
treating Buffelgrass along the road to Bear Canyon

Anne says: 
In response to concerns about the use of herbicide, I pose the question: What's the alternative? 
Some have suggested that goats be brought in to eat these invasive grasses. Even if goats did find buffelgrass tasty, goats wouldn't be able to rid the canyon of these invasive grasses. Because grasses grow from the base (specifically, from the root and rhizome), goats can chomp all they want and not kill the plant. (That's why you can mow a lawn and still have one.) 
Some have suggested that we employ young people to climb to inaccessible places and dig out these grasses. In a world of infinite resources (and one in which we didn't put a high price on the well being of teenagers), I suppose we might find a way for this to work. Ensuring that every last bit of root and rhizome were completely bagged, brought down from the heights, and destroyed would make for a very long-term project. And in the meantime, the grasses would just keep on growing.
Some have suggested burning invasive grasses. Even if you could guarantee that root and rhizome were burned, there would be massive damage and destruction of native plants. (Not to mention the teenagers above.)
The reality is, the only viable option we currently have at our disposal is to use herbicide to kill the entire plant. 

Big thanks to Mark and Jean Hengesbaugh for getting people and things moving against the invasives. 

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