UPDATE 5/13/19: The final budget (signed into law by the Governor) allocated $1 million per year, over the span of ten years. Audubon will monitor the implementation of this new grant program to ensure that birds and Arizona's waterways benefit.
UPDATE (2/28): Senate Bill 1450 passed out of the Arizona State Senate 28-2 and its equivalent in the Arizona State House of Representatives, House Bill 2580, passed 60-0. The funding tied to this is now $10 million total, $5 million in 2020 and $5 million in 2021.
The following is the testimony I gave to the Arizona House Natural Resources, Energy, and Water and Senate Water and Agriculture Committees. On behalf of Audubon, I testified at the hearings in support of House Bill 2580/ Senate Bill 1450, which would provide grants to remove invasive plants along waterways and replace them with native vegetation. It passed out of both chambers’ respective committees and will head to the appropriations committees.
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Committee:
My name is Haley Paul and I am the Policy Manager for Audubon Arizona, the state office of National Audubon Society, one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations.
Audubon Arizona is supportive of House Bill 2580/ Senate Bill 1450, and appreciative of the efforts of the sponsors to address the vexing issues of invasive plants in Arizona. For example, salt cedar has altered flood plains, increased fire risk, and crowded out many native plant species just west of here—along the Lower Gila River.
The Lower Gila River is home to a Globally Important Bird Area. Therefore, it is critical that if projects are conducted in this stretch of the river with such grant funds, we do not simply remove the salt cedar without a plan to replace it. This is not a lasting recipe for success. Removing salt cedar must be accompanied by native plant restoration, and when examining projects eligible for this grant funding from the state, priority given to the projects with multiple benefits—salt cedar eradication to reduce flood and fire risk, and improved habitat by revegetating with native flora that can grow where the salt cedar has been removed.
Simply removing salt cedar without a plan for revegetation will be more harmful to birds and other wildlife than leaving the salt cedar in place. Careful consideration and research should be done to select projects with the highest chance of native plant revegetation success, such as places where soil salinity is not unacceptably high to native plants species. There are many restoration case studies to learn from so that we ensure wise stewardship of these precious grant dollars.
We are happy to see amended language in Subsection B, Paragraph 4 that adds “REPLACING NONNATIVE VEGETATIVE SPECIES WITH NATIVE VEGETATIVE SPECIES.” We think this helps clarify the purposes of the grant program, and we are grateful to the sponsors for this clarification.
Thank you for your efforts to remove invasive plant species from Arizona’s waterways and improve wildlife habitat through this bill. It has the potential to benefit people, municipalities, counties, birds, wildlife, and more. Thank you.