Register for Superstition Mountains projects including non-native removal and mapping training.

How the Desert is Changing

Historically, the Sonoran Desert portion of the Tonto NF was considered a low fire risk environment.  Lightning and other natural causes could ignite a fire. However, the natural spacing of the native plants generally carried only low intensity fires and not for much distance.  Most plants native to the Sonoran Desert, including the iconic Saguaro, are not fire adapted. Not fire adapted means that they do not recover from the effects of a fire.

Native Sonoran Desert

The huge and numerous forest fires during 2019, 2020 and 2021 are tragic examples of how the desert is changing.

Wet Winter/Springs Seasons in 2019 and 2020 encouraged plant growth. As a consequence, non-native plants provided the fuels to carry the fires over hundreds of thousands of acres.  Saltcedar, brome grasses, sahara mustard, fountain grass and now buffelgrass and other non-native plants are rapidly expanding in the Tonto. These non-native plants out-compete the native plants and provide extra fuel for fires.

Fountain Grass Brochure – download and share!

Come out and Help!

You can join Friends of the Tonto as we work with Tonto NF and neighboring communities to educate the public, identify and map the non-native infestations, and remove the threat where possible.

First, to participate in any Superstition Mountains event, sign a Superstition Mountains Liability Waiver form. The liability waiver is valid for the season.  Second, it is important that you become familiar with the safety requirements which can be seen here Safety Analysis.

Removal Events

See what happens at a removal event!

Events are planned for every 2nd and 4th Saturday from October through April. We meet at different times and locations as shown in the event registration form. You can easily complete the required registration for each of the removal events at Removal Event Registration. Additional dates will be added to the registration form as the locations are determined.

Mapping and Monitoring

Mapping and monitoring is a great way for you to get outside and explore on your own schedule!  With the addition of the Superstition Fire Burn Area, we are asking for more volunteers to participate in this ongoing activity.  You’ll use ArcGIS Field Maps which is a free app for your smart device.  There are 4 species of non-native plants we’ll be monitoring — fountain grass, buffelgrass, stinknet and Sahara mustard. Depending on the time of year, they are quite easy to learn to recognize.  Since the plants are seasonal, there will be an opportunity and need to cover the same territory multiple times. 

Mapping and Monitoring Training Checklist

Please make sure you have done the following tasks before the training session as they require connection to the internet.

  • Download Field Maps app to your smartphone.  See YouTube video Download ArcGIS Field Maps app
  • Login to ArcGIS Online.  User Name is friendsofthetonto.  Contact for Password
  • Open the map NNP Survey with Burn Area 10_21 Offline areas in Maps.  See video at ArcGIS Field Map Offline Areas
  • For the training session download the Offline Areas Usery and Goldfield Mtns Map Area by clicking on the download icon.
  • For the project area, download the Offline Areas Western Superstitions_Map Area by clicking on the download icon.  (Note: the name of the Offline Area has changed since the video.)

At this point, you will be able to collect data offline (no Wi-Fi or Cellular) within these map areas.

On day of training meet at 8:00 AM at the Bush Highway Trailhead.

LOOK how far we’ve already come this season —

October 2021 to April 3, 2022

What non-native plants will I see now?