Endangered cactus species rescued at bridge project

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Thriving, not just surviving, is the goal of a joint effort by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix to protect an endangered species of cactus that grows only in one tiny area of Arizona. That area also happens to be where ADOT is building a replacement bridge over Pinto Creek on U.S. 60 near Globe-Miami. 

In 2018, ADOT began the project to replace the current 72 year-old structure. Before that work began, ADOT partnered with botanists from the Desert Botanical Garden. They rescued the endangered hedgehog cacti that grow in the construction zone. 

 ADOT plans to complete the project in 2022. They will replant the cacti.

“The location of this project is the only place in the world where these endangered Hedgehog cacti exist,” said ADOT Biology Specialist Joshua Fife. “One of our jobs at ADOT is to make sure that every project we do respects the environment. It’s not only the law, but it’s the right thing to do and protecting these endangered cacti is valuable for generations to come.”

The rescue effort required several of the members of the Desert Botanical Garden team. They had to rappel into the canyon, carefully dig up, cover and transport the plants to the Garden complex in Phoenix where the cacti are being cared for and propagated. “We jumped at this opportunity to work with ADOT because it is such a special plant and as an endangered species, conserving it is vital,” said Steve Blackwell, Conservations Collections Manager for Desert Botanical Garden. “They are an important part of the food chain and they are also very beautiful, especially when they bloom. The blossoms have a bright magenta color.”

“Not only will we be able to return the rescued cacti to the site once the project is done, but also we will have more cacti than when we began,” he added. “Because part of this process is to hand pollinate the plants at the garden complex and we are also able to clone the mother plants. This is a great win for the environment.” For more information on ADOT Environmental Planning: azdot.gov

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