The Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preservation Commission (MMPC) has formed a working group of its members to study options to address invasive species of vegetations found in the preserve.
Commission Chairman Paul Garvey and commissioners Bill Craig and Janice Holden will work together on the group, which will report back to the full commission.
At a monthly meeting on Sept. 29, commission members heard a presentation on the invasive species from Pam Cissik, co-chair for the Sonoran Conservancy of Fountain Hills.
Cissik noted there is a regional organization, Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA), founded in 2012 by the Phoenix Botanical Garden, that is addressing the issue. Invasive desert plants can be detrimental to native desert plants and wildlife, as well as become a fire hazard.
CAZCA has 31 partners including Maricopa County Parks, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and Tonto National Forest. A group formed by the alliance known as Desert Defenders has developed a citizen science program and is focused on finding, mapping and removing the invasive species from local parks and preserves.
There is a focus on eight plant types known to have moderate to severe impact on local ecosystems, fire risk and seasonal allergies.
Training programs are being organized for volunteers willing to assist with the identification, mapping and removal. Cissik said the Desert Defenders have scheduled training sessions in Fountain Hills through the SCFH in November 2020 and January 2021. Those are currently scheduled as in-person sessions, but that may change.
Specific to Fountain Hills, in April this year two trail stewards notified the SCFH of Globe Chamomile growing near the new Ridgeline Trail in the Fountain Hills Preserve. Also, two trained stewards did a survey of the Fountain Hills Botanical Garden and identified Globe Chamomile, which was removed, as well as invasive grasses near the parking lot, which were not removed.
Cissik said SCFH is proposing that the MMPC consider six actions related to the invasive species issue.
*Become more knowledgeable about CAZCA, Desert Defenders and their objectives.
*Identify and meet with Fountain Hills stakeholders to determine any areas of critical fire risk within or bordering Fountain Hills where invasives may be an issue.
*Train SCFH volunteers to identify and map presence of invasive non-native plants in the preserve.
*Identify issues and develop a removal or management plan for invasive species and report back to MMPC and the town.
*Implement an approved plan.
*Concurrently accomplish the same for the Fountain Hills Desert Botanical Garden and the Lake Overlook Trail where SCFH already does trail maintenance.
Holden told the commission she works with the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve and it is considered a significant issue within that preserve. She added that they are working diligently on the issue.
However, Holden said the occurrence of invasive plant species within Fountain Hills and its preserve is considered controllable.
“If we approach this in an organized way, we have a good chance of addressing the problem,” Holden said.
Garvey asked Town Community Services Director Rachael Goodwin whether there is or should be a town policy regarding the invasive species.
Goodwin said Parks Supervisor Kevin Snipes and FHFD Chief Dave Ott agree it is at least beneficial to investigate.
“This is a new conversation for the commission,” Goodwin said.
Garvey said he hopes the working group can report back to the commission in October.