Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to our desert ecosystems. They outcompete native species and decrease biodiversity. And although they are not the cause of wildfires, once a wildfire is ignited, the invasive species provide the fire with fuel to spread far and wide; hence wildfires are occurring more frequently and with much greater magnitude.
Maricopa County Parks (Parks) has put together a Natural Resource Plan to help protect the park's native diversity, and a high priority in the plan includes invasive species management. Recently, Parks has been working with the Department of Forestry and Fire Management to secure a contractor to treat 100 acres area within Estrella Mountain Reginal Park along the Gila Floodplain area (El-Rio Research Trail Area). Eradication efforts will help reduce the fire fuel load. The project includes Tamarisk treatment, Stinknet treatment, and planting 500-800 native trees to replace the invasive species.
The project will occur in three phases over the next year, with Phase One will begin in April 2023. Phase One includes the tasks highlighted in the flyer below. Phase Two, which is anticipated to start in the Fall of 2023, will focus on:
- expanding the Tamarisk mastication treatment area to the north of the Phase One area,
- treating Tamarisk resprouts,
- applying a pre-emergent herbicide to the Stinknet, and
- planting native tall pot trees such as Velvet Mesquites, Palo Verdes, and several other native tree species.
Phase 3 is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2024 and may include treatment of Tamarisk resprouts and Stinknet. This will reduce the wildfire risk and create native habitats for wildlife species and visitors year-round. However, the area will be closed during treatment.
Through funding to eradicate invasive species in the state from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, their team has procured an experienced agency to help manage invasive species at Estrella Mountain Regional Park-Gila River Area through the Spring of 2024.