Program rescues plants
An increase in construction in Oro Valley, Ariz., has destroyed thousands of barrel, prickly pear and hedgehog cacti, despite state laws protecting the native plants and trees. To remedy the problem, concerned residents, with help from city planners, initiated the Save-a-Plant program that rescues native plants from development sites and places them throughout the town. “We have a unique desert ecosystem, and we need to protect it,” says Melissa Shaw, planner for the city.
At the program’s inception, residents and planners worked with city officials to create a local ordinance that protects native plants that are not covered under state law. In addition, residents and planners urged state legislators to revise state laws to make it less expensive for non-profits and residents to salvage native plants.
Under the previous state law, anyone who wanted to transplant a native plant had to obtain a permit. He also was required to pay $4 per plant to purchase a tag, which is placed on plants removed from native locations.
With the backing of Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis and the Arizona Department of Agriculture, Arizona Native Plants Law Article 1, Section 3-196, was passed by the legislature. The law exempts non-profit associations from permit requirements and fees associated with replanting, as long as they replant in residential developments, public parks or other common areas.
The Save-a-Plant program, administered by city planners, has helped implement the ordinances by connecting developers with the area groups that want to replant the cacti. The city planners arrange for digging dates and educate community volunteers on how to transplant cacti without damaging the roots.