Tucson Audubon takes birds seriously. That’s why along with watching them, teaching about them, and conserving them, we restore their habitat too!
Our restoration efforts are concentrated in riparian areas; along some of our region’s rivers, streams and washes. Improving habitat along riparian areas is one of the most efficient ways we can help wildlife species, since so many of them use riparian areas. A large number of bird species that are on the Audubon Watchlist (of vulnerable bird species) are ones that depend on riparian areas.
Often habitat in our riparian floodplains are degraded due to farming, grazing, groundwater pumping and erosion. In some places, new riparian habitat is developing along effluent-dominated waterways like the lower Santa Cruz River. Enhancing the habitat in these areas means increasing the diversity and density of native vegetation, and improving the structural diversity of vegetation as well. We use standard habitat restoration techniques as well as adding innovative methods from the field of Permaculture.
All Tucson Audubon habitat restoration sites are posted no trespassing, and access is only possible during official Tucson Audubon events or by special arrangement. If you would like to learn more about our habitat restoration projects and how you can volunteer, explore the links below or contact Jonathan Horst , Restoration Ecologist (520) 971-6238 (cell).
Opportunities to Visit and Volunteer at the Restoration Sites
There are periodic opportunities to go on tours, birding trips or volunteer days at the habitat restoration sites. For more about these opportunities to visit restoration sites, call Jonathan, or visit our Event Calendar.
Current Ecosystem Restoration Projects
Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds
The Center grounds have undergone a major transformation leading to a more inviting space for birds, all wildlife and human visitors. Hundreds of native grasses, shrubs and trees have been planted that are now and in the future providing food and habitat for birds to thrive. The former horse paddock has been replanted as fertile meadow, and also includes a pond that serves as a magnet for wildlife activity. New trails and feeding stations have been added all around the property providing more viewing opportunities. Educational programming has been started and will be further developed in the years to come. Multiple web cameras are now online allowing people to experience the Paton Center from afar.
Tucson Audubon’s Mason Center
The Mason Center is a place where youth, families, educators and others can appreciate the beauty of our native desert and participate in a great variety of natural history learning experiences. Owned and managed by the Tucson Audubon Society, it is located on 20 acres of mostly undisturbed saguaro-ironwood desert donated by its former owner, Mrs. Orpha Mason, in an area of Tucson’s northwest side that is rapidly growing and in great need of outdoor education opportunities. Some Tucson Audubon staff have offices at the Mason Center, so come by and take a tour!
Simpson Farm and Martin Farms, Avra Valley
Tucson Audubon, in cooperation with the City of Tucson, is enhancing wildlife habitat along the lower Santa Cruz River in northern Pima County. The project sites have a riparian zone fed by effluent from Tucson, and adjacent abandoned farm land in the river’s floodplain.
The Simpson Farm is west of Trico Road, north of Trico-Marana Road, and south of Hardin Road. The Martin Farm site is a 30-acre portion of the former Martin Farm lying north of Marana Road just west of the Santa Cruz River. The project site includes a riparian zone fed by effluent from Tucson, adjacent former mesquite bosque and an upper area of creosote flats. Project personnel produced a site assessment and plan, and work began in the fall of 2006. In addition to planting, seeding and fighting invasives, erosion control features have been constructed.
Legacy Ecosystem Restoration Projects
Atturbury Wash drains fairly large areas southeast of Davis Monthan Air Force Base and runs north ultimately to Pantano Wash. It passes through Fred Enke golf course and Lincoln Regional Park before spilling into the lake at Lakeside Park. The reach through Lincoln Regional Park has been named the Atturbury-Lyman Bird and Animal Sanctuary, due to the thicket of trees and shrubs that harbour wildlife along the wash.
This vegetation has begun to decline due to drought and hydrologeological issues in the area. Under a grant from the Arizona Water Protection Fund Commission, Tucson Audubon has used “natural channel design” to address the hydrological issues and is planting hundreds of trees and shrubs to revegetate.
Barrio Kroeger Lane
A TogetherGreen Innovation Grant has allowed us to partner with Barrio Kroeger Lane to improve landscaping in the neighborhood. The Barrio Kroeger Lane neighborhood is an underserved, lower-income area between downtown and “A” Mountain. Historically it was cut off from downtown by I-10 and severely affected by flooding in 1983. It has benefited from nicer-looking landscaping, and we have demonstrated the use of water-harvesting features in the landscape. If residents continue to install them, they may suffer less street flooding.
Bird-friendly plants and vegetative structure in the new landscaping should improve shelter, food and nesting opportunities for birds. We are working with the University of Arizona ‘s Tucson Bird Count to monitor how bird populations may change there in the future. A vibrant neighborhood association in Barrio Kroeger Lane has shown great interest in the project.
Tucson Audubon is enhancing wildlife habitat along the lower Santa Cruz River in northern Santa Cruz County. The project site includes a riparian zone fed by a combination of natural flows and effluent from the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant. Restoration focuses both on the hydroriparian vegetation along the river and on adjacent former farm fields and grazing land in the river’s floodplain. Esperanza Ranch is an area of sensitive habitat and its access is governed by a conservation easement agreement between Tucson Audubon and the landowner.
Esperero Canyon is a narrow drainage in the front range of the Santa Catalina Mountains, located between Ventana and Sabino Canyons. Tucson Audubon owns 15 acres of steep canyonside and canyon bottom between the foothills area and the Coronado National Forest boundary. We have done regular reconnaissance and volunteer work to remove invasive buffelgrass from hillsides and fountaingrass from the canyon bottom. Access to this property is restricted because of gated communities at the base of the mountains. Look in the Tucson Audubon calendar for specially-organized events that allow members and volunteers access to the canyon.