SIA Stewardship Specialist Bryon Lichtenhan and I recently headed out to the field, delighted to be accompanied by our three Doris Duke conservation scholars — Taylor Lo, Samai Bhojwani, and Nadira Mitchell. I was particularly excited to be taking them to a spring that’s near to my heart in southern Arizona’s Whetstone Mountains, an hour east of Tucson.
I used to work at Kartchner Caverns State Park in the Whetstones, and I’ve loved caves since I was a child. The park’s limestone hills and caverns are some of the most beautiful landscapes in our Sky Islands. There’s at least one natural spring in the park — McGrew Spring. And it’s particularly important for wildlife since it’s lower in elevation, where it’s hot and there isn’t other year-round water.
McGrew Spring isn’t open to the public. And unfortunately, within the past few years, the exclusion fence came down, and cattle have been getting in and trampling the spring. The park has been looking for partners to help restore and protect this sensitive site. We were grateful to be chosen for the task!
We started with a wildlife camera to monitor use of the spring by native wildlife, as well as cattle. Then with our Doris Duke conservation scholars, we cleared half the spring enclosure from invasive white horehound (Marrubium vulgare) over the course of two days. Just one more volunteer weekend, and the spring should be completely clear of this invasive plant.
Below are a few scenes from the weekend, with captions if you click on the photos.
Our next steps?
First, let the weather cool down and then repair and rebuild the exclusion fence. Then we plan to revisit the site a couple times a year to monitor the horehound and a couple other invasives. Stay tuned for opportunities to join us in this work! Hopefully we’ll see the spring’s health improve rapidly.
Many thanks to Nadira, Samai, and Taylor for joining us on this outing. Check out Nadira’s video below for scenes from the weekend, including wildlife sightings.