Wildfire damages important Sonoran tortoise migration path in Scottsdale

With the burn scar, it's more likely invasive plants will try to move in and that could hurt...
With the burn scar, it's more likely invasive plants will try to move in and that could hurt the tortoises.(Arizona's Family/McDowell Sonoran Conservancy)
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 8:44 PM MST
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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — A nature preserve left burned and charred north of Scottsdale is now in desperate need of restoration. “We’ve pretty much put the area on red alert kind of watch,” said Melanie Tluczek, the director of science and education at the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. The Diamond Fire consumed around 2,000 acres earlier this summer, with nearly 300 of that in the preserve at the conservancy.

The area is called the Gooseneck. It is a narrow strip of land that connects the northern and southern parts of the preserve. Animals like the Sonoran Desert tortoise have no choice but to travel through it to reach different parts of their habitat. “That was a sizable amount of that land was impacted,” said Tluczek.

Typically preserves tend to have little to no human interaction but they will need to go in and restore it to help the tortoises and prevent something else from moving in. “Now that it’s burnt, it’s really susceptible to these invasive plants to grow. That puts the desert tortoises at risk because of those invasive plants. Then they lose a really big chunk of their food source and then they really have nowhere else to migrate through there.”

Weeks after the Diamond Fire was put out, a neighborhood near Scottsdale is starting to clean up and getting water has been an issue.

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy said they are working on plans to reseed the area that was lost. “That is the name of the game. It’s getting native seeds and native plants out there and giving them the upper hand so they can compete with invasive plants,” said Tluczek.

While they work, they are asking hikers for help. They want people to stay on the trails and not go out and explore those damaged areas. “I know that sounds like an incredibly simple thing but it’s so important because those areas are so fragile after a burn. The soil is fragile. It’s very easy to transport inevasible species on your boot, things like that,” said Tluczek.

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