Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.), also known as tamarisk, is a large shrub native to the Eurasia and northern Africa that grows in arid to semiarid regions. Found only along waterways, saltcedar can spread rapidly and take over areas normally dominated by willows. Saltcedar does best in disturbed areas, which make up a majority of the riparian areas in the southwestern United States. Saltcedar has several attributes that alter native ecosystems in ways that are detrimental to the native biotic communities.
Saltcedar has been present in the Prescott area for some time now, but for poorly understood reasons did not spread as rapidly as it has in other regions and so Prescott Creeks did not target its removal as a priority habitat restoration project. However, in recent years, we have seen new sprouts appearing in Watson Woods Riparian Preserve and other local riparian corridors and recognized it as a current threat to local stream-side communities. In 2015, Prescott Creeks received a grant from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management to engage in a watershed-wide habitat enhancement project focusing on the removal of several target invasive plant species, including saltcedar. This grant allowed us to hire a conservation crew from American Conservation Experience to cut down over 350 saltcedar trees in Watson Woods Riparian Preserve.
Removing this much woody material from Watson Woods has turned out to be a project in itself and over the past several months, Prescott Creeks recruited Yavapai County Adult Probation to help. The County Adult Probation Community Restitution program is designed to encourage positive change in probationers’ lives to “enhance community safety, reduce recidivism, and avoid the creation of new victims in the community.” To fulfill court mandated public service, probationers are assigned work with government agencies and nonprofit organizations. These probation crews have impressed us with their work ethic and dedication to giving back to the Prescott community – they have contributed 250 hours, nearly $6,000 worth of labor, removing around 10,000 pounds of saltcedar from Watson Woods and hauling it to the City of Prescott’s transfer station for disposal.
For their contributions to this project, Prescott Creeks would also like to thank the City of Prescott Solid Waste Division and everyone who has volunteered their time to help improve habitat in Watson Woods and throughout the Upper Granite Creek Watershed.
If you would like to help restore and enhance riparian habitat here in Prescott, please consider volunteering with Prescott Creeks.