Plant Rescue

If you would like to participate in a CACSS plant rescue, you will need to join the CACSS. You can join here. When you mail in your form, be sure to include your E-mail address and ask to be notified of upcoming rescues.

Often there is very little notice when it is time to harvest. A developer may notify the club on Thursday that bulldozers will scrape the land on Monday. So, rescues rely on mass E-mail distribution to collect volunteers.

Sometimes we have rescued cacti available for sale. You can check on availability here.

Since 1929 it has been illegal to damage native plants on, or remove native plants from, State land in Arizona, without a State permit. There are also stringent requirements for moving them around. You can access Arizona Revised Statutes Title 3, Chapter 7, here.

A landowner can do whatever he wishes to plants on his own property, unless they are protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act. The landowner can kill all the plants if he wishes when he scrapes the land. He can also sell the plants or give them away. We don’t have any ESA cacti in the Phoenix area, but Tucson has one Coryphantha on the list.

Arizona Revised Statutes specify a fine of $5000 per day knowingly to transport harvested plants on public thoroughfares without a State transport permit, except in rare circumstances. In addition, violators may be found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the plants. If found guilty of a felony, judges may impose fines of up to one hundred fifty thousand dollars.

How the permit process works: A (legal) harvester surveys the land and decides how many plants, and of what kind, to rescue. Then the harvester goes to the Department of Agriculture and buys plant tags. The harvester must prove that the landowner gives permission for the harvest. Tag prices vary by species and size of the plant for which tags are intended. Each tag specifies for which plant and what size of plant it is to be used.

At the harvest site, after harvesting a plant, the proper tag is attached. Now the plant can be transported off the property. The tag must remain on the plant until placement in the final owner’s garden. Arizona Department of Public Safety officers will stop people transporting obviously harvested cactus if tags aren’t visible.

Larger Arizona municipalities now require developers to survey land to be developed and mark all trees, saguaros, and barrel cacti over a certain size. The law also requires developers to harvest these large trees, saguaros and barrels. There is a market for these larger plants and the developers are willing to cooperate. There are companies that do nothing but harvest large plants from land to be developed, and they wholesale harvested plants to retailers. But the small stuff doesn’t have to be saved unless it’s Federally protected. It generally gets bulldozed.

The Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society started their rescue project about 5 years ago. TCSS members seek out new development sites far in advance, and approach the developer. The developer usually gives permission to harvest the small stuff. The TCSS must carry liability insurance, or the developers will not participate; everybody on the rescue site must be a member of the TCSS to be covered by the insurance, and they all sign a waiver absolving the developer of anything that happens to them on the site.

The TCSS takes out everything it can – ocotillos, smaller barrels, mammillarias, smaller saguaros, even the occasional Peniocereus the commercial harvesters didn’t notice. Club members attach tags. People who dug a particular plant and want it are allowed to buy and carry home the plant that day for a very reasonable price. Exceptional things like crests go to one of the botanical gardens in the Tucson area.

The club then transports tagged plants back to holding grounds. A TCSS member lets the club use about an acre of his land to hold the plants. They are dug into rows and tended. Here in Phoenix we would welcome offers of land for storing rescued plants. Even a quarter acre or less of available land would be a great resource for rescue.

The TCSS sells the plants at all the plant sales in the Tucson area. They also sell to landscapers.

The club uses the money to buy harvesting equipment; to pay for paperwork expenses; to pay for insurance; and to pay for educational grants to teachers at local schools who want to organize projects related to the desert.

The more publicity they get the more willing the developers are to work with them.

The CACSS is beginning to rescue plants in the Phoenix metropolitan area. We are being assisted by the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, and we are learning from them everything necessary to conduct rescues on our own in the future. The CACSS now has its own liability insurance; for our own digs, our members no longer need to join the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society. If we wish to participate in TCSS digs, however, we must belong to the TCSS.

We welcome your participation in plant rescue. You don’t have to be a big, burly digger; you can also help with the paperwork, or tagging, or sign-in.

If you would like to participate in a CACSS plant rescue, you will need to join the CACSS. You can join here. When you mail in your form, be sure to include your E-mail address and ask to be notified of upcoming rescues.