Madera Canyon Bridges Habitat Restoration
What a difference a year and a half can make! In December, 2014, the Madera Canyon Rd. upper bridges construction project looked much like a “wildcat open-pit mining project” and the FoMC was receiving dozens of complaints from people horrified as to the damage being perpetrated upon beautiful Madera Canyon. With a huge “mountain” of boulder and rubble, a yawning pit, diverted creek beds, downed trees and loud machinery, it was hard to believe that the area could ever be put back to rights.
Fast forward to late spring, 2016, the situation is greatly changed and much improved. The bridges are finished and meet modern safety standards and the huge rubble mountain and deep pit are long gone. The devastated landscape surrounding the bridges has been re-contoured to reduce erosion and the streambeds restored. Boulders, rocks and logs have been strategically placed for erosion control and landscape aesthetics. Over one hundred native trees, shrubs, annual wildflowers and grasses have been planted to revegetate and an amazing variety of native plants have re-seeded- just coming up on their own!
The restoration project has been the result of a successful partnership effort between the USFS, FoMC, Sky Island Alliance and Borderlands Restoration. Early on during bridge construction, the FoMC recognized the up-coming need for considerable habitat restoration and notified the USFS. Nogales District Recreation Ranger John Titre responded quickly, procuring project funding, obtaining cooperation from the construction contractor and recruiting organizations that could facilitate the project. Project goals, an action plan and task assignments were quickly accomplished in group meetings and the project was initiated!
Initial landscape restoration was performed by Borderlands, partially with equipment briefly provide by the contractor, but primarily by hand- and brute strength- of young volunteers! The final, extensive landscape/boulder/rock work was done by hand by Sky Island Alliance staff and volunteers. A comprehensive revegetation native plant list was compiled by Sky Island and FoMC; many Arizona nurseries were scoured to procure specimens. Planting by Sky Island and FoMC volunteer crews was timed to coincide with summer rains; volunteers also constructed and installed animal-proof cages to protect the tender, vulnerable plants. After the rains, USFS crews provided water for volunteers to hand-water each and every planting through the dry fall!
Today, the restoration project is showing visible, “growing” results. While it will take time for trees and shrubs to grow to mature size, an amazing number of the plantings survived the winter due to ongoing care and nurturing. Sky Island Alliance has held several volunteer days this spring to water and pull up invading Vinca (pervasive in the bridge area and spreading in the canyon) – they have really done an impressive job of keeping plants alive and growing!
The Friends of Madera Canyon would like to thank Ranger John Titre for his considerable contribution/efforts on this project. The FoMC would also like to thank the USFS personnel, Sky Island Alliance staff, Carianne Campbell and Bryon Lichtenham, and volunteers, Borderlands Restoration staff, David Seibert, and volunteers and the FoMC volunteers who have worked on the project.