Summer 2020’s Bighorn Fire burned nearly 120,000 acres in the Santa Catalina Mountains and disturbed vast stretches of upland forest habitat north of Tucson. Over a third of the Bighorn area on Mt. Lemmon burned with high severity, putting the landscape at long-term risk if restoration actions aren’t taken. These areas are more likely to experience increased runoff and erosion due to tree mortality and damaged soils. Fortunately, there are many simple restoration actions that can slow vegetation and soil loss, protect springs from burial, and improve the infiltration of rain and snowmelt.

Sky Island Alliance has partnered with Coronado National Forest since 2022 to rescue springs, install native plants, and build rock erosion-control structures to stabilize habitat on Mt. Lemmon. With help from many volunteers and the Arizona Conservation Corps, we’ve installed 177 erosion-control structures, returned native understory plants to burned forest, and improved the availability of spring water at multiple sites. Together, these actions benefit downstream communities in the Tucson basin that depend on local water sourced from Mt. Lemmon. They also support a wide range of wildlife that live in or migrate through the Catalinas — species like American black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, bighorn sheep, coatis, ringtails, coyotes, gray foxes, lesser long-nosed bats, Mexican long-tongued bats, and peregrine falcons. Stay tuned in 2024 for more volunteer events where you can join us as we continue this important work.