Our Mission

Friends of the Tonto National Forest is a group of volunteers who assist the Forest in its critical mission of natural and cultural resource and visitor use management. We promote public understanding of the Tonto National Forest’s policies, programs and projects.



Friends received the Citizen Stewardship and Partnership Award!

Friends of the Tonto recently received an award from the Southwestern Regional Office of the Forest Service, from their 2019 Regional Volunteer and Service Awards Program.  The letter from Acting Regional Forester Sandra Watts stated:  “Each year, exceptional dedication and service is recognized through the National Volunteer and Service Awards program for exemplary achievements to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity  of the nation’s forest and grasslands by the invaluable contributions made by volunteers, partners, and employees supporting our core mission of ‘Caring for the Land and Serving People.’  These efforts truly embody the spirit of working together to preserve the legacy of public lands through passion, dedication, generosity, and hard work.”


FOTNF received the award because “Friends of the Tonto National Forest has been partnering with the forest for over 10 years and has performed invaluable invasive removal, resource monitoring, and volunteer boots on the ground.  Friends of the Tonto NF has also done an exceptional job of hosting educational events, posting on social media, attending public outreach events, applying for grants, and providing other capacity support that our Forest needs.  They are full of expertise and have been a reliable source for specialty work such as cultural resource protection, restoration efforts, and rare plant monitoring.”


Milkweed for Monarchs

This project is part of a multi-year program to create monarch butterfly habitat on the Tonto National Forest. It supports nationwide efforts. Milkweed is the required diet for monarch larvae – read about the monarch’s incredible life cycle at here.


Seedlings were grown by Friends volunteers using FOTNF-collected desert milkweed (Asclepias subulata) seeds from naturally occurring populations along Bush Highway. In mid-November, the milkweed seedlings were planted at Wildcat Staging Area on the Cave Creek Ranger District and Phon D. Sutton recreation site on the Mesa Ranger District. 50 milkweed seedlings at each site.
The Home Depot at Tatum and Bell Road in Phoenix generously donated hardware cloth to protect the seedlings from herbivore depredation, garden soil and other materials for planting the seedling milkweeds. Thank you, April!!

We will be watering through next summer and welcome everyone’s help. Watering is a critical part of success of this project!

Please sign up to water!


Meet Patti Fenner, Executive Director

Despite moving to Arizona in the summer, at the tender age of 2 in an un-airconditioned station wagon, Patti Fenner chose a career working in the outdoors. She earned a degree in Botany at ASU. Then, to put the botany degree to practical use, went on to a Master’s program in Natural Resource Management. As she graduated in 1980, the Tonto National Forest created a new Range Conservationist job on the Cave Creek Ranger District. The job was created in part because of a lawsuit by the Audubon Society to improve grazing management along the Salt and Verde Rivers. Patti worked as a Range/Watershed staff for 23 years.

In 2003, Patti was offered the chance to create the Tonto’s first Invasive Plant program. This was undoubtedly the best job on the Forest! She spent hours discovering infestations and mapping them across the entire Forest. After mapping, she worked with District personnel, volunteers, other agencies, and contractors to control them.

Patti has served as President and on the board of the statewide invasive plant organization, SW Vegetation Management Association. She is currently on a committee who worked to revise Arizona’s Invasive Weed Rule.

Patti retired in 2014, and, unable to kick the habit of work, created Friends of the Tonto National Forest. Working with the brilliant and creative people on the Friends’ board is one of the great joys of her life (the others being her husband and friend, Scott Wood, son, daughter-in-law, and 4-year-old grandson).


Get to know others who serve on the Friends’ Board

Upcoming Events


Volunteer on the Tonto National Forest

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