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September 21, 2011 (Santee) – On September 24, 2011, The San Diego River Park foundation and the Friends of Santee’s River Park will host a National Public Lands Day (NPLD) event at Town Center Park in Santee on the banks of the San Diego River. Starting at 9am, volunteers will continue habitat restoration efforts aimed at removing invasive, nonnative plants that are detrimental to the river and its wildlife.

Of specific concern is the presence of Tamarisk or saltcedar trees and saplings in the river habitat. These nonnative, invasive trees, introduced to the U.S. in the 1850’s, have since spread across the American South-West displacing beneficial native vegetation and forming dense thickets around wetlands and along rivers. Aside from displacing native vegetation on which birds and wildlife depend upon for food and shelter, tamarisk needles and litter also pose an increased risk of fire hazard.

Another problem with tamarisk is that it is very thirsty. In arid climates such as the desert and Southern California where water is scarce, mature  tamarisk trees can transpire up to 300 gallons of water per day whereas native trees and plants are more thrifty with their water usage, support wildlife with food, shelter and nesting sites and typically pose less risk of fueling wildfire.

During the National Public Lands Day event at Town center Park in Santee, the River Park Foundation will provide all the tools, gloves and instruction for volunteers to really make a difference for our public lands in Santee and the health of the San Diego River. Organizations like the Girl Scouts, university groups and local volunteers are expected to participate in this yearly tradition.

National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in the United States. Begun in 1994 with three sites and 700 volunteers. It proved to be a huge success and NPLD became a yearly tradition, typically held on the last Saturday in September. 

National Public Lands Day keeps the promise of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the "tree army" that worked from 1933-1942 to preserve and protect America's natural heritage. 

For more information, visit www.sandiegoriver.org.