ADOT project helps save endangered species

Partnership with Desert Botanical Garden sees more endangered cactus returned to Pinto Creek bridge site

GLOBE - The recent completion of an Arizona Department of Transportation bridge replacement project near Globe means new life for an endangered species of cactus. 

The location of the US 60 Pinto Creek  bridge is also home to the endangered hedgehog cactus, which grows only within a several mile radius of the site. About a foot high, usually covered in spines and often with red flowers at the top, Arizona hedgehog cactus looks something like the small animal it’s named after. The species is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is protected under Arizona law.

When the project began in 2018, a team from Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix safely removed 34 cactus that would have been impacted by the construction work, then nurtured and propagated more, replanting a total of 61 cactus earlier this month. 

This environmental protection effort took on added importance in the summer of 2021. At that time a wildfire swept through the project site, threatening some of the cacti in that area that were not removed because they were not threatened by construction. 

“The plants on site could have easily been destroyed in the fire which is why it was a good thing these plants were taken back to Desert Botanical Garden out of harm’s way”, said Steve Blackwell, Conservations Collections Manager for Desert Botanical Garden. “That was an important side benefit of taking cactus out when we did. Another valuable part of this process was that we were able to hand pollinate the plants at the Garden, clone the mother plants and develop a seed bank for future preservation. This is a great win for the environment”

“ADOT has a responsibility to respect the environment and to make sure the plants and animals that make Arizona special are protected,” said Josh Fife, ADOT’s biology team lead. “We’re proud that the work we did will make sure the Arizona hedgehog cactus will continue to exist in the one special place in the world where they thrive.”

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