Kendall Kroesen, Restoration Program Manager
Paul Green, Executive Director
If we helped Tucson neighborhoods that lack significant vegetation to acquire a beautifying native landscape, would it build neighborhood pride, bring people out of their homes, and reduce crime?
If that landscaping also supported native birds, by providing those birds with food, shelter and nesting opportunities, would that help slow the decline of some of our common birds? (See National Audubon's press release on the declines: web1.audubon.org/news/pressRelease.php?id=920 .) If we held birdwatching events in neighborhoods, would more people appreciate birds and want to conserve them? Would that mean that fewer children would suffer from nature deficit disorder?
And what if the landscape harvested water instead of shedding water? Would that mean less street flooding? Would it mean less use of potable water to irrigate landscapes? Would that mean we would take less water from nature, from the Colorado River Delta and from our local desert riparian areas? Would we burn less fossil fuel to pump water from deep underground or uphill from the Colorado River?
What if that landscape created shade for its inhabitants? Would that begin to help reverse the eleven-degree increase in average Tucson temperatures since 1910, half of which is due to the urban heat island effect? Would we burn less fossil fuel because air conditioners would not have to work so hard? And if all of this is done “bottom-up” using ideas from within the community, will this produce a sustainable natural landscape that the neighborhood works to maintain?
Tucson Audubon is setting out to find answers to these questions. National Audubon is helping us to initiate this vision with a $20,000 Together Green Innovation grant! Part of a Together Green volunteer recruitment grant will also be used in this endeavor. Together Green is an Audubon program with funding from Toyota (see www.togethergreen.org ). We are actively soliciting other funders to help us with our efforts to sustain this project beyond the first year of funding.
We continue to work on landscaping around the Historic YWCA building that houses the Tucson Audubon offices as a demonstration project. At a larger scale, the TogetherGreen Innovation Grant has allowed us to partner with Barrio Kroeger Lane to improve landscaping in an entire 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 would benefit from nice-looking landscaping, and if we can install enough water-harvesting features into the landscape, residents 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. We have also consulted with University of Arizona herpetologist Phil Rosen about ways to make landscaping friendly to small reptiles and amphibians. Michael Rosenzweig of the University of Arizona and his students are helping design plant recipes for our target bird species.
A vibrant neighborhood association in Barrio Kroeger Lane has shown great interest in the project. We meet with them regularly to develop a neighborhood landscaping plan, locations for demonstration projects, and a list of homeowners who want to participate.
This project is a pilot for developing outreach to neighborhood associations in Tucson, other municipalities and in unincorporated areas. There are more than 150 neighborhood associations in the greater Tucson area. There are other groups that promote rainwater harvesting landscapes designed to improve storm water control and reduce the use of potable water in landscaping. The unique perspective that Tucson Audubon brings to urban conservation is integrating rainwater harvesting and community development with native vegetation that is designed to support native species of wildlife that are of conservation concern.
We are pleased to have assembled a broad partnership for our work that includes departments within the city of Tucson, Pima County, the University of Arizona, private corporations, and other leaders in the field.
Tucson Audubon is bringing its expertise in bird conservation, habitat restoration and environmental education into the city where people live and work. We are focusing on landscaping first; but in coming years you will see an increasing number of Tucson Audubon programs engaging more adults and youth in birding, conservation and sustainability efforts in our urban area.
Expanded Volunteer Opportunities, Thanks to Together Green
By Kendall Kroesen , Restoration Program Manager
This morning on my way to work I saw a large bird flash across a residential street and disappear behind a parked car. I slowed and pulled to a stop just past the car. A Cooper's Hawk was on the sidewalk, standing atop an Inca Dove, which had not yet figured out what had hit it. Suspicious that I was competition for its prey, the hawk took off with the dove in its talons.
Little bird dramas play out constantly across our city and desert, and it's fun to see them. But in our modern world—heavily affected by human changes to the environment—we can't assume bird populations will stay steady and that ecosystems will continue to be healthy.
On September 22 BirdLife International, in partnership with National Audubon, issued an international report on Common Birds in Decline (see web1.audubon.org/news/pressRelease.php?id=920 ). It isn't about species on the brink of extinction. Instead it shows how populations of relatively common birds have declined, some precipitously, over the last 40 years. Around Tucson , these species include Black-throated Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, Verdin, Phainopepla and others.
There are many opportunities to partner with Tucson Audubon and other agencies to help support birds and other wildlife. All these projects are supported by Together Green, an Audubon program with funding from Toyota (see www.togethergreen.org).
Sabino Canyon Arundo Removal Volunteer Days: Help remove giant reed (Arundo donax) in Sabino Canyon. Giant reed is an invasive plant from Eurasia which forms dense thickets that choke riversides and stream channels. Volunteers are needed to assist with removal of the plants, which entails cutting, bundling and hauling the stalks as well as digging, cutting, bagging and removing the roots. Crew leaders are also needed and must go to a training day. More information available at www.sahra.arizona.edu/education2/arundo/ .