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April 24, 2014

Stopping buffelgrass in its tracks

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Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau
355th Fighter Wing
(U.S. Air Force photos by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau)
Chris Kartcher, Arizona Conservation Corps crew supervisor, uses a pickaxe to remove the buffelgrass behind the horse stables here, April 23. AZCC was contracted through the Arizona Game and Fish Department to remove the buffelgrass in and around the property of D-M.

The Arizona Conservation Corps is removing buffelgrass from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Buffelgrass is an invasive species of grass brought to Arizona from Africa in the 1920s. It was intended to be used as forage food for cattle and other livestock. However, it has expanded into the open areas of the Sonoran Desert posing a threat for possible fires.

Under the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, the base was able to meet with Arizona Fish and Game Department as well as the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Service to talk about methods that would control invasive species.

“We came up with the idea of having an invasive species survey done, following the survey came the removal of the buffelgrass,” said Kevin Wakefield, 355th Civil Engineering Squardon natural and cultural resource manager.

Through a contract with Arizona Fish and Game Department the AZCC was sent to perform a mechanical removal of the buffelgrass in and around the property of D-M.

“We have the AZCC for three weeks this year, twice in the spring, and once in the fall after the summer monsoon season. They’re doing a mechanical removal of the grass, which means to pull it by hand,” Wakefield said.

There are only a few ways to successfully kill the buffelgrass, Wakefield said. The grass can either be mechanically removed by hand or it can be sprayed with an herbicide.

“The reason why we want to get rid of buffelgrass is to reduce the fire hazard and to ensure we have flight safety issues covered,” Wakefield said.

Buffelgrass is highly flammable and produces a thick black smoke when on fire. The dark smoke can limit aircraft visibility which can also lead to flight line closure, according to Wakefield.

This is the first time there has been a mechanical removal of the buffelgrass on base.

“We have requested the removal to be budgeted annually,” Wakefield said. “We’re hoping in the future to get the AZCC crew up to four weeks.”

The main areas of focus for D-M’s buffelgrass problem are gate 29B, the air traffic control tower and along the base’s fence lines.

“We want to keep any grass along the flight line low, so there aren’t any bunches of grass that could catch fire,” Wakefield said.

Buffelgrass poses a problem to base housing as well. If you see the grass near your home, remove it immediately.

For more information on buffelgrass you can find it on this site, http://www.buffelgrass.org/.




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