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SABCC Receives Prestigious National Award

The Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center (SABCC) has been honored as one of 17 organizations nationwide to win the U.S. Department of Interior’s coveted “2011 Partners in Conservation Awards.”

The award, presented Sept. 21 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, recognizes SABCC for its integrated approach to mitigating the impacts of buffelgrass invasion in the Sonoran Desert. Introduced from Africa in the 1930’s, buffelgrass is gradually replacing cacti and other native plants through competition, increases fire risk to ecosystems, people and property, and could eventually reduce tourism in southern Arizona.

“The Partners in Conservation Awards demonstrate that our nation’s greatest conservation legacies often emerge when agencies and citizens from a wide range of backgrounds come together to address shared challenges,” Salazar said.

SABCC DOI Award with Ken Salazar

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar and USGS Awardees.

From left to right Sharon Gross (USGS Invasive Species Coordinator), Suzette Kimball (USGS Deputy Director), Ken Salazar, Sarah Smallhouse (SABCC Chair), Lindy Brigham (SABCC Executive Director), Tracy Holcombe (USGS Scientist , Ft. Collins Science Center)


 “By working across jurisdictions and coordinating public and private institutions, the SABCC has created a partnership that has synchronized regional efforts, realized efficiencies by directing both information and resources toward a common infrastructure, and engaged and educated legislators and the public,” the award citation says.

SABCC’s partners in the fight against buffelgrass include the Pima Association of Governments, Pima County and its municipalities, the National Park Service (Saguaro National Park), the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management (Ironwood Forest National Monument), the National Forest Service (Coronado National Forest), the University of Arizona, five environmental nonprofits, ten business groups and the Tohono O’odham Nation.

SABCC Chair Sarah Smallhouse, Executive Director Lindy Brigham, USGS Invasive Species Coordinator Sharon Gross and USGS scientist, Fort Collins Science Center, Tracy Holcombe accepted the award in Washington D.C. on behalf of SABCC and its partners.

The U.S. Geological Survey nominated SABCC for the award for cooperative efforts with their agency facilitated by SABCC federal liaison Julio Betancourt, USGS National Research Program. The nomination was made by David Hamilton, Director of the USGS Fort Collins Science Center.  In 2010, the USGS Invasive Species Branch, led by Jeffrey Morisette and part of the Fort Collins Science Center, worked with SABCC and its partners to develop a data management system and decision support model that are now SABCC core functions.  SABCC first applied these tools for the Santa Catalina Ranger District of Coronado National Forest , and is now deploying them to manage buffelgrass in and around Ironwood Forest National Monument.

SABCC was created in 2008 when scientists and community leaders united to assess the buffelgrass threat and implement control efforts.  A second Arizona organization, the Gila Watershed Partnership of Arizona, also was among the 17 recipients in states from Hawaii to Alaska receiving the Partners in Conservation Award. A full list of the Partners in Conservation Award winners is available at

Download the press release

SABCC Partners honored:

Bureau of Land Management

National Park Service

Tohono O’odham Nation

USDA Forest Service

U.S. Geological Survey

Pima County

Town of Marana

Town of Oro Valley

Town of Sahuarita

University of Arizona

Colorado State University

Northern Arizona State University

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Pima Association of Governments


City of Tucson

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers

Tucson International Airport

Southern Arizona Leadership Council

The Thomas R. Brown Foundations

Sonoran Institute

Tucson Audubon Society

Tucson Clean and Beautiful

Rural/Metro Fire Department

Tucson Electric Power

Cox Communications


Southwest Gas

TRICO Electric

Logan Simpson Design


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