Thank You for Making a Difference in Aravaipa Canyon

Photo Caption: Volunteers removing vinca under the beautiful fall colors of Aravaipa Canyon.

Years have passed since we first partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to remove invasive periwinkle (vinca) from the creek that flows through Aravaipa Canyon. The canyon was full of vinca when we started—so thick in some places that it had choked out the canyon’s native plants, so widespread that it covered miles of creek bed and understory, so pervasive that it would spread even further with each flood brought on by a monsoon rain event.

Related Reading: Learn more about our Aravaipa Habitat Project.

We came into this vinca removal project with a goal: if we could use the power of staff and volunteers to manually pull the plants that grew along the water — and if we made sure nothing, root, vine, or flower, was left within six feet of the creek bed — then The Nature Conservancy would be able to spray everything else in the understory with an herbicide without getting these chemicals in the water.

See, the creek that runs through Aravaipa Canyon is one of the most intact native fisheries in the state of Arizona. Native fisheries are becoming increasingly rare; they need to be protected. So, we knew that although we need to remove vinca in order to restore the canyon’s health and habitat, we had to do so carefully … and therefore manually.

Photo Caption: Volunteers digging up vinca next to the creek.

This manual work takes time. It also takes people: wonderful volunteers and students and Sky Island Alliance staff members. Everything we achieve in Aravaipa Canyon is because of you, your passion for wildlife and water, your weekend sacrifices, your willingness to work, your steady hands and feet.

Today, we want to share the successes of this work, the things we’ve achieved in the first quarter of this year thanks to your dedication and support. Here are three ways you’ve helped us make a difference:

  1. Between January and March 2021, Sky Island Alliance led four volunteer trips into Aravaipa Canyon. Despite the pandemic, 27 volunteers joined us in the cold winter and spring months to pull vinca—contributing a total of 670 volunteer hours across eight days of work.
  2. Each group spent 12 hours clearing .25 miles of Aravaipa Creek for a total of 1.02* miles cleared from the creek in Q1. That’s a lot of vinca pulled!
  3. Thanks to you, we have accomplished 91% of our goal for the number of creek miles kept clear of vinca! We are ahead of schedule on this goal, and with each new trip we add to our calendar this year, we will be able to move even further down the canyon.

* Within the scope of this mile, volunteers helped pull periwinkle in five areas that had resprouted. Vinca removal is a slow and tedious job, and to achieve full eradication, persistent effort is needed. With only a small staff of nine at Sky Island Alliance, we recognize that if we did this alone, we would never see the end of the vinca in this canyon. You are the heart and soul of what makes this work possible.

Related Watching: Introduction to Aravaipa Canyon Preserve and Invasive Vinca

We envision a future where Aravaipa Canyon becomes easy to maintain; where Sky Island Alliance and TNC can spend more time introducing native flora to the canyon and less time pulling existing and resprouting vinca from the creek bed; where the canyon’s intact native fishery continues to be protected through the promotion of healthier aquatic habitats.

Thank you for everything you’ve done to get us one step closer to this vision.

Interested in joining us at TNC’s Aravaipa Canyon Preserve later this summer? We will be taking two trips, one in July and one in August, to pull vinca and plant native flora in places where periwinkle has been successfully removed. We would love to have you along! You can sign up here.