Volume 38, Issue 2, 2019

Southwest Spotlight

Tucson Agave Heritage Festival & XTO agave plantings


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Dan Taylor, BCI’s Director of Habitat Conservation & Restoration,
plants an agave during the Tucson Agave Heritage Festival.

Bat Conservation International (BCI) launched an agave planting initiative throughout the U.S. Southwest and Mexico to support the lesser long-nosed bat, a frequent Tucson area visitor, and the federally endangered Mexican long-nosed bat. These bats need wild agave foraging habitats throughout the “bat-nectar corridor” that extends from central Mexico to the southwestern United States.

The plantings occurred at Pima County’s Paseo de las Iglesias ecological restoration site, Sanctuary Cove, Pima County’s Isabella Lee Reserve, the Tucson Audubon Society’s Mason Center, the City of Marana’s El Rio Preserve and the International Refugee Committee & Literacy Connects’ pollinator garden. The plantings were completed with the assistance of several partners, including Borderlands Restoration Network and the Gila Watershed Partnership.

The event coincided with the Tucson Agave Heritage Festival, an annual city-wide, 10-day destination event in Tucson that spotlights the southwest region through the lens of the agave plant. The festival featured various culinary, cultural, educational and anthropological events celebrating the agave and the Tucson area.

Both the lesser long-nosed bat and endangered Mexican long-nosed bat are vital migratory pollinators and nectar feeders whose survival is dependent on wild agave.

Agave that are not planted for agricultural reasons are important throughout the southwestern United States, Mexico and South America because the plant spends its lifespan storing sugars to prepare for growing a beautiful flowering stalk. The stalk serves as a food source for migrating bats as they follow the pattern of flowering northward along their path.

BCI is planning a 10-year agave planting initiative to combat the mounting pressures on wild agave populations, which include harvesting for the tequila and mezcal industries, climate change and development.

“We’re thrilled to complete this agave planting for the lesser long-nosed and Mexican long-nosed bat, two important pollinator species,” said Dan Taylor, BCI Director of Habitat Conservation and Restoration. “These bat species need fully matured, flowering agave in order to feed and to serve their important pollinator role. We hope to boost the wild populations of agave while still appreciating the role of the tequila and mezcal industries and other agricultural users of this amazing plant. Thanks to our donors such as XTO Energy and the Bently Foundation, the amazing Tucson Agave Heritage Festival and our incredible volunteer network, we’re able to help these bats with important agave restoration efforts.”

BCI’s agave restoration efforts involve coordination with a range of partners, a network of volunteers, and biologists who provide guidance on the most impactful plantings locations.

 

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