Burned Area Recovery Project on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

by Ricardo Small

On the 1st of March 2021, a team of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Altar Valley Conservation Alliance personnel and volunteers planted native seedlings in an area that experienced a human caused wildfire three years ago in 2018 on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR). Morgan Walter and Geoff Bland, leaders of the Burned Area Recovery Project with the USFWS and Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, organized the group with the help of Reta Rutledge, vice president of the Friends of BANWR. This was the fourth planting in the same burned area. The previous three were in October, November and December of 2020.

The Nighthawk Natives Nursery in Tucson grew the plants from seeds collected on the Refuge. Geoff Bland drove a pickup loaded with the seedlings to the site. Holes already augured there were ready for planting. The numbers of each species, all valuable for wildlife, were:

  • 145 wolf berry, also called Arizona desert thorn
  • 31 hackberry
  • 57 whitethorn acacia
  • 41 four-wing saltbush
  • 51 lotebush, aka: graythorn

After placing the seedlings in the holes, the workers put a grow medium (Hydro Crunch Coco Coir Block) around the roots. This medium is 100% natural with high water holding and high air fill porosity. Morgan Walter mixed up the medium with water and Geoff showed everyone the amount to put in each hole.

Geoff watered the native plants with a hose attached to the tank that Morgan drove to the site. Previously planted seedlings had a drip irrigation system set up to supplement rain and snow, which is infrequent during our ongoing drought.

This project will accelerate regrowth of a burned area to benefit wildlife on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for all to enjoy.

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