Volunteer Heroes add Diversity in Bear Canyon

Story by Carianne Campbell

RestoreVols_HeaderSizeI have to admit, when Sky Island Alliance first took this on, I was not 100% convinced that we could make a difference in Bear Canyon, given the severity of the infestation of a wide variety of invasive plants. We have been working to increase the floral diversity around a spring that occurs in Bear Creek, an active wildlife travel corridor, with the support of Pima County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Partners for Wildlife Program, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund. This year’s spring break marks our one year anniversary working in Bear Canyon, located in Tucson, Arizona on the Coronado National Forest boundary in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Pima County owns the property, named “Rancho Fundoshi,” by its previous owner, Jack Segurson, a well-loved Tucson high school teacher and wrestling coach, apparently with a great sense of humor… a fundoshi is the loincloth of a Sumo wrestler! Mr. Segurson was committed to the preservation of the special parcel for the benefit of wildlife, and our work is furthering his legacy.

The work has been herculean.

We have removed huge stands of giant reed, excavated 60-year old oleanders, and bent rock bars on fountain grass stubbornly wedged in rock crevices. We have cleared out this piece of the canyon with an army made up of veteran Sky Island Alliance volunteers: UA students from the Blue Chip Leadership Program, Cienega Club, Bear Down Camp, and the Honors College, the Arizona Native Plant Society, and, recently, a group of 18 soldiers from all over the country completing a leadership course at Fort Huachuca. Our volunteers do not fit neatly into any one demographic, and I am thrilled about that! We’ve had kids as young as 5 years old, as well as adults who have never volunteered before; scientists visiting from the State University of New York at Fredonia; artists; and seasoned weed warriors like Marcus Jernigan and Jim Washburne, who have made eradicating weeds in natural places their favorite pastime. In total, 117 volunteers have dedicated almost 900 hours to improving this important wildlife corridor and protecting the spring. We’ve installed 284 native pollinator plants (19 species!) and are almost done at “Rancho Fundoshi.” We are now continuing this work up-canyon and into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area.