Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Removing tamarisk from Apache Creek

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on February 17, 2013

Apache Creek
Apache Creek Wilderness Area, Prescott National Forest
09/28/12 – 09/30/12


The Wilderness Act of 1964 created a legal definition of wilderness in the United States. It set aside over nine million acres to be protected so they can exist in their natural state or as close to their natural state as possible. Today that has expanded to over 109 million acres. Arizona has 90 wilderness areas covering over 4.5 million acres. After a decade of assessment of these lands, Arizona’s wilderness areas scored low. One of the areas assessed was non-native and invasive plants. Arizona is home to a number of these plants but probably none are more notorious than tamarisk, also known as the salt cedar. The plant was imported to the Southwest in the 19th century for erosion control. Since then it has run rampant, particularly in river corridors and smaller water drainages. It lays a deep root system and deposits salts on the top layer of soil preventing native plants from growing. It seeds year round, responds well to fire and is challenging to kill. You can see why it has become such a problem in Arizona.

Arizona Republic reporter Ron Dungan and I spent three days and two nights documenting volunteers from the Arizona Wilderness Coalition during their mission to eradicate tamarisk from the pristine and remote Apache Creek Wilderness Area in the Prescott National Forest. Though I was working hard lugging around heavy camera and video equipment through this rugged wilderness it pales in comparison to the tedious and exhausting labor performed by these wilderness volunteers.

– David

Read Ron Dungan’s story by clicking here.

For more info about Arizona’s wilderness areas & volunteering check out the Arizona Wilderness Coalition website. 


5 Responses

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  1. Stephen Schwartz said, on February 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Has anyone ever considered that today’s “native” species might have been “invasive” species a few hundred years ago? Further, spreading of “invasive” species by humans and animals is a “natural” thing – isn’t it? Is anyone really sure that “invasive” species are worse for the eco-system than “natural” species – on a long-term basis? Dinosaurs were once “native” species. How upset are we that they no longer exist?

    I guess I’m going to catch a lot of flack for the above!

    • canyoneering said, on February 18, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      I cant speak to non-native species at large, but tamarisk specifically prevents other plant species from thriving. Tamarisk can literally take over drainages. Healthy ecosystems are diverse and not dominated by one plant species. Besides, the whole point of wilderness is for it to exist with as little human footprint as is possible. Tamarisk was introduced by man and is only there because of man, thus it doesn’t belong in wilderness.

  2. Stephen Schwartz said, on February 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Again, I’m going to get myself in trouble – Us humans are just one of G-d’s creatures, designed to do what we do. We are unique from other species in that we use more brain-power than muscle-power. With our brainpower we have determined that Crownvetch was a great groundcover for highways (no mowing required). Since then it’s taken over in locations where it was planted. Kudzu is another invasive species – which now kills all vegetation that it can reach in the southeast (freezing temperatures keep it from going further north so far). Russian Olive trees are invasive in the northeast (and probably elsewhere), but I don’t know what got them to this part of the world (humans or just bad luck). Many of these “invasive” species were not brought on purpose, but come in the ballast tanks of ships, or mixed with cargo, or just blown in by the wind. Somehow snakes made it to Guam, and wiped out the bird population there (by eating the bird eggs). Folks in Guam seem to be doing fine though.

    “Bottom line” is that we humans aren’t really smart enough to differentiate bad species from good species. On a long-term basis we haven’t really got a clue, so why spend time and money trying to fix something that might not be broken?


  3. canyoneering said, on February 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Who says it is not broken? You?

    Again can’t speak to invasive at large, but tamarisk is a problem. Plenty of experts say so.

    This particular group spent plenty of time trying to remove it but minimal money was spent. This is where the volunteers come in.

  4. Stephen Schwartz said, on February 19, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    You win.

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