TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A crew of eight people with a set of tools have been hard at work along the Santa Cruz River.
"This past summer we got funding from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management to create a project along a 7.2 mile stretch of the Santa Cruz River," said Tucson Audubon Society Director of Conservation and Research, Jonathan Horst.
That plan has finally been put to action. The Tucson Audubon Society, Northwest Fire District and Pima County Regional Flood Control are removing a number of invasive plant species that they said could fuel a future fire.
"It's a mixture of chemical and manual removal depending on what is most appropriate seasonally and for the specific plant," said Horst.
The project site stretches from Camino del Cerro in Tucson to Twin Peaks Road in Marana. The team is also creating 13 new fire breaks along the channel for further protection.
"A single fire could take out a big piece of that vegetation for an extended period of time," said Horst.
Protecting vegetation along the Santa Cruz River is a main motivator for the Tucson Audubon Society. Horst said vegetation along Southern Arizona rivers is critical for the survival of birds and other wildlife.
"We're making sure that the Santa Cruz River stays a really viable and integral part for wildlife linkages for various mammals moving up and down the river and making it from the Tucson Mountains, over and up the CDO and into the Catalinas," said Horst.
The Tucson Aubudon Society envisions wildlife thriving along the Santa Cruz River for years to come.
"We're doing work that has, not just the potential, but the high likelihood, of preventing a big piece of habitat loss in the near future," said Horst.
The "Corazon Sin Fuego," or "Heart Without Fire," project will continue for the next two years.