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Buffelgrass fight enters new stage in southern Arizona

June 16, 2016

News Release
June 16, 2016

Buffelgrass fight enters new stage in southern Arizona with stronger focus on long-term efforts

TUCSON—Southern Arizona is entering a significant new stage in the fight against buffelgrass, as the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center (SABCC) hands over its responsibilities to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Pima Association of Governments and Sky Island Alliance, which are strongly positioned to wage the battle over the long-term.

SABCC was established in 2008 with four main goals:

·      Raise public awareness about rapid buffelgrass invasion and rising threats to public safety and protected areas in the Sonoran Desert from increasing fire risk

·      Map and assess the scope of the threat

·      Jumpstart control efforts and help evaluate their success

·      Coordinate efforts across multiple and varied jurisdictions

All four goals have been met in the past eight productive years. The time has come, however, to institutionalize the fight against buffelgrass and entrust and divide SABCC’s responsibilities among local organizations with longer standing and more stable revenue streams. Because it has been well-run and efficiently operated, SABCC will pass on significant resources to help these organizations continue the effort.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) will assume SABCC’s primary responsibilities.

·      ASDM will become the source of scientific information about buffelgrass and methods for controlling it

·      ASDM will work with Saguaro National Park to implement the National Park Service Resilient Landscapes grant

·      ASDM will maintain the buffelgrass website –

·      ASDM will assume the regional mapping responsibilities

·      ASDM will coordinate the Buffelgrass Working Group, which facilitates coordination among all the local jurisdictions as well as the state and national agencies involved in controlling buffelgrass

Kim Franklin, the Conservation Biologist for the ASDM, has extensive experience with buffelgrass and is leading the museum’s effort for the community. Kim can be reached at

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Rd., Tucson, AZ 85743, tele: 520-883-3008, email: [email protected].

“SABCC has achieved what it set out to do eight years ago, jumpstarting awareness and coordination of the battle to control buffelgrass. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is happy to work with PAG, Sky Island Alliance and the Buffelgrass Working Group to ensure that these efforts continue,” said Debra Colodner, Director, Conservation Education and Science ASDM.

Pima Association of Governments will assume leadership for Beat Back Buffelgrass Day, a key event in raising public awareness of the buffelgrass threat. PAG’s role is significant: PAG started Beat Back Buffelgrass Day in 2007, subsequently turned it over to SABCC and is now will resume this activity. Contact information for BBBD is now Cherie Campbell, Deputy Director tele: 520-495-1418, email: [email protected].

And the Sky Island Alliance will assume direction of the international effort with Mexico against invasive species. Contact information for the project is Louise Misztal, Executive Director, Sky Island Alliance tele: 520-624-7080 ext. 19 email: [email protected]

The transition from SABCC to the other organizations will occur officially on June 30.

“We are very pleased that these organizations have stepped up to take responsibility for ongoing buffelgrass control,” said Sarah Smallhouse, one of the founders of SABCC and its board chair throughout its eight years. “The Desert Museum is world-renowned and widely respected for its science and advocacy for the Sonoran Desert. PAG is the region’s Council of Governments and metropolitan planning organization. And the Sky Island Alliance is an engaged and well-regarded environmental nonprofit that spans the international border in its scope. The fight against buffelgrass could not be entrusted to better hands.”

SABCC was created in 2008 after two summit meetings of representatives from state and federal agencies, county and municipal governments, academia, private conservation organizations, business leaders and concerned citizens called for the creation of an agency to coordinate the fight against buffelgrass.

In its eight years, SABCC has won accolades for its community-based approach to fighting buffelgrass. It also has been instrumental in bringing approximately $5 million worth of grants to southern Arizona. SABCC’s accomplishments include:

·      Honored by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s coveted “2011 Partners in Conservation Awards,” presented to SABCC as one of only 17 organizations nationwide to win the award. SABCC was recognized for its integrated approach to mitigating the impacts of buffelgrass in the Sonoran Desert.

·      Recognized by the Public Lands Foundation’s Landscape Stewardship Certificate of Appreciation in 2010 for SABCC’s bringing together a variety of partners to fight buffelgrass.

·      Played an integral role in securing a $3.4 million FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant to control buffelgrass spread at Tucson International Airport and the Pima County Mission Complex, which houses the County Jail.

·      Managed cooperative agreements worth $600,000 with Saguaro National Park, the Ironwood Forest National Monument, and the U.S. Forest Service Southwest District.

·      Successfully campaigned to have the Arizona Department of Agriculture list buffelgrass as a noxious weed, a listing that means the plant cannot be sold in Arizona or brought into the state.

·      Worked with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Invasive Species Branch to create a decision support system for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

·      Recruited thousands of volunteers to pull buffelgrass at the annual Beat Back Buffelgrass Day.

·      Helped coordinate local Congressional Field Hearings on buffelgrass invasion in the Sonoran Desert. Congressman Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, presided over that hearing, which helped bring national attention to the threat buffelgrass presents to the desert and the region’s economy.

Julio Betancourt, a senior scientist now stationed at USGS Headquarters in Reston, Va., and a founding SABCC member, encourages Tucson, Pima County and southern Arizona, “to keep mapping, assessing risks and seeking solutions. Unaddressed, the buffelgrass problem will surely worsen. As it does, concerns will eventually shift from biodiversity to public safety, as we struggle to stem brushfires in both urban and natural areas.”

SABCC’s board of directors optimistically looks forward to the new direction and outcomes that will be achieved by creating new approaches to controlling buffelgrass in southern Arizona.

For more information contact:

Lindy Brigham, Executive Director
Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center
Phone:             520-626-8307
Cell:                 520-955-2599



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