The Lower Salt River Restoration Project (LSRRP) was established in 2018, just one year after the Cactus Fire. Resource managers recognized that without action, the footprint of the fire would quickly return to undesirable habitat dominated by non-native plant species, such as salt cedar. In the spring of 2018, partners from Northern Arizona University, Tonto National Forest, and the National Forest Foundation received their first grant for work on the Lower Salt River and immediately began planning.
From 2018 to 2021, Phases 1 & 2 of the LSRRP treated just under 200 acres of riparian habitat within the Cactus Fire footprint. Each field season begins in the fall with mechanical and/or chemical treatment of invasive plant species. Where herbicide treatment is required, targeted methods are applied to minimize the chemical footprint on the landscape. Following invasive plant treatment, project managers and crews plant thousands of native riparian tree species each year. In addition to this planting, managers can rely on the natural recruitment of native species by removing constant competition from invasive plants. Together, these methods are increasing the abundance and diversity of native vegetation on the Lower Salt River.
Phase 3 started in 2021 and expanded the footprint of the project to over 300 acres. Initial salt cedar treatment for this phase took place in the Fall of 2021. Project managers are working with TNF Fire Specialists to establish a prescribed burn plan to address downed debris and slash from treatment. In the spring of 2022, just over 16,000 coyote willow trees were planted on the banks of the river to help increase native species abundance.