When the fire burned on Saturday and Sunday in the Gila River bed between Pima and Eden, the Gila Watershed Partnership suffered the loss of a restoration site. However, the GWP crew sees opportunity in the ashes.

The Gila Watershed Partnership is a nonprofit organization working to improve the water quality of Gila River as well as the ecosystem surrounding the river.

GWP director Melenie Tluczek said the fire resulted in the loss of an irrigation pipe, native plants, trees and native brush. On the plus side, however, the fire cleared the area of salt cedar that had been left sprawled on the ground after the restoration site began to be cleared in 2016. The cuttings in the Pima Bridge restoration area were as high as three feet in some areas, making it difficult to move around.

“In reality, we now have 10 acres here that we didn’t have before that we can now start re-vegetating,” said Steve Palth, GWP greenhouse director. “Obviously it’s not a grand and beautiful thing, but from a restoration standpoint we can take advantage of it.”

Short window to act

Tluczek said GWP can now plant native brush and trees. However, the planting of native underbrush has to take place before the summer monsoons or else weeds will choke out the native seedlings and saplings.

“Our main goal right now before monsoon, it would be nice to get the seed down so we can get ahead of the weeds,” said Plath.

Tluczek said GWP will be asking for donations from the community to purchase native seed from Tucson quickly. There isn’t enough time for grants applications.

“We now have an opportunity that we didn’t have before,” said Tluczek. “We are looking for money to seed this place like crazy and we need about $10,000 to buy as much native seed as we possibly can and put it out here to both tamp down the seeds and turn this into a native plant haven.”

According to the National Weather Service, monsoon season officially starts in Arizona on June 15 and continues until September 30.

“We have a sheer opportunity at having this clear land,” said Tluczek.

Tluczek said the 10 acres of restoration site can be turned into an incredible native vegetation utopia.

“It’s going to benefit the town of Pima, it’s going to benefit the river taking less water. In the case of another fire, burning less hot and less fast, and it will also be better for wildlife,” said Tluczek.

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