Help preserve the Sonoran Desert while enjoying Tucson’s sunny weather by participating in Beat Back Buffelgress Day Feb. 5. Hundreds of volunteers are being sought to fight against this growing environmental problem.

A wildfire waiting to happen, the buffelgrass invasion is threatening to transform the mostly fireproof and diverse Sonoran Desert into a flammable and impoverished savanna, affecting both natural and urban areas.

“When I was growing up and in school, deforestation and the loss of biodiversity in the rain forest became a major environmental concern. Little did I know that our own desert could face the same threat,” said Sarah Smallhouse, chair, board of directors of the nonprofit Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center.

Listed as a noxious weed in Arizona, buffelgrass is flammable most of the year, and burns much hotter than native grasses and plants. The native vegetation, unaccustomed to fire, is permanently destroyed while the buffelgrass recovers quickly. As buffelgrass colonizes more areas, native plants and animals are displaced and the threat of fire increases across the landscape.

Last year on Beat Back Buffelgrass Day, more than 500 volunteers removed 15,000 buffelgrass plants from 20 locations in just a few hours. Among this year’s volunteers are the University of Arizona Softball Team and its coach, Mike Candrea.

Individuals and groups can volunteer at more than two dozen locations in and around Tucson by registering at www.buffelgrass.org. Saguaro National Park will host a Beat Back Buffelgrass event at the park’s Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro West).

Additional information on buffelgrass can be found at the Saguaro National Park’s website at www.nps.gov/sagu/naturescience/invasive-plants.htm.

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