An effort to re-establish native vegetation at an urban wildlife sanctuary has brought about 800 small but growing trees and shrubs to the site — benefitting birds, other wildlife and people who visit.

Members of the Tucson Audubon Society, aided by hundreds of volunteers, have planted species including blue palo verde, velvet mesquite and desert willow trees at the Atturbury-Lyman Bird and Animal Sanctuary.

They also have installed rainwater harvesting basins and micro-catchments to collect water for the plants.

“We’ve done volunteer workdays approximately monthly in the cool months” since work began in the fall of 2012, said Kendall Kroesen, urban program manager for the Audubon Society. “All the species planted are currently found growing naturally along the (Atturbury) wash or were likely to have been there in the past.”

In addition to several species of trees, plantings have included desert hackberry shrubs, graythorn shrubs and other native vegetation, Kroesen said.


A grant of $390,839 from the Arizona Water Protection Fund made much of the work possible at the 55-acre sanctuary, Kroesen said.

Another $11,558 grant — from a nonprofit partnership called Conserve to Enhance — funded the purchase of some plants and work on habitat restoration near a trailhead at the sanctuary.

The plantings were needed because some areas had only sparse vegetation.

“We believe that vegetation in general has suffered both from drought and from water draining off the floodplain and into the deeply eroded wash rather than sinking in,” Kroesen said. Some of the grant money from the Water Protection Fund has been used for natural channel design work aimed at limiting erosion in the wash.

Kroesen said hundreds of volunteers have put in more than 1,700 hours of work on the project since 2012.

Additional work is expected to be completed by about October 2015.

Wire fencing around the plants will be removed when they grow large enough to no longer be vulnerable to rabbits and rodents, Kroesen said.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz