Nature Club Introduced to Saguaro National Park and Its Friends

Michael Buckley

The February meeting of the SaddleBrooke Nature Club featured speaker Fred Stula, the executive director of Friends of Saguaro National Park (FOSNP). Fred and his wife, Tiffany, long-time Easterners from Connecticut, had previously vacationed in the Tucson area, and they both fell in love with the beauty of Arizona. When the opportunity to move west arose, there was no hesitation, and Fred, Tiffany, and their two dogs departed Connecticut in 2017, driving across the country to take on the position of executive director for the Friends of Saguaro National Park. Fred spent most of the program talking about the mission and accomplishments of the FOSNP but, first, we must introduce the readers to Saguaro National Park itself.

Tucson leaders began efforts in the 1920s to protect areas of the Sonoran Desert and the iconic saguaro (pronounced sa-WAH-ro). The park began its existence in 1933 when President Herbert Hoover used the power of the Antiquities Act to establish the eastern district as Saguaro National Monument. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy added the Tucson Mountain District and renamed the original parcel to the Rincon Mountain District. In 1994, Congress designated the two districts as Saguaro National Park. Saguaro National Park consists of over 92,000 acres divided into two separate districts: the larger Rincon Mountain District on the east side of Tucson with over 67,000 acres and the 25,000-acre Tucson Mountain District on the west side of Tucson.

Both districts offer spectacular scenery, the chance to see numerous types of wildlife, and don’t forget the Saguaros—over two million in the two sections: 450,000 in Rincon Mountain and 1.6 million in Tucson Mountain.

Now that we know a little about the park, why don’t we take a look at the Friends of Saguaro National Park? The mission of the FOSNP is to act as a private partner with the park to enhance and improve programs that SNP leadership is unable to accomplish on its own. The strategic goals of FOSNP are to discover, protect, and support the park, and are described below.

Discover: To allow youth and adults to reconnect with nature by encouraging exploration of the park’s resources, heritage, and recreational opportunities.

Protect: Encourage programs for the preservation and conservation of the park’s wilderness character to include scientific research to enable sound resource management decisions.

Support: Strengthen community partnerships and environmental stewardship through philanthropy, public education, and volunteerism.

FOSNP has three main programs to reach these goals:

1. Next Generation Ranger Corps: Provides training and mentorship to develop future park leaders. There have been 84 graduates since the program started in 2015. Ninety-five percent work in the environmental field.

2. Environmental Education Programs: Over 15,000 students from over 80 local schools have been introduced to the park.

3. Trail Maintenance: The park has almost 200 miles of trails. Every year, about 60 miles are rehabilitated.

FOSNP always welcomes volunteers or donations. Contact them at 520-733-8610 or email [email protected]