National parks like Saguaro National Park are coming up with solutions on how to bring down the theft problem of visitors stealing plants, animals, rocks and artifacts that are meant to remain as part of the park.
Near Tucson rests Saguaro National Park which contains over a million of the giant cactus beasts. Rangers and visitors can see the hole of where a saguaro once stood tall and strong before someone uprooted it.
“It’s absolute criminal activity,” Kevin Dahl, southwest senior program manager for National Parks Conservation Association, says. “It’s for profit. A mature saguaro adds something to the value of a home or business that’s for sale or rent.”
Dahl says saguaros are often sold for about $100 or more per foot. As the largest cactus species in the country, they can grow more than 40 feet and live up to 200 years. They can only be found growing in the Sonoran Desert.
In order to prevent people from stealing the cactus, nearly a thousand of the most accessible saguaros have been tagged with microchips. They don’t give off the location of the cactus, but if scanned it will say that it belongs to the national park.
“Our biggest hope is that it’s a deterrent,” Chief Ranger at Saguaro National Park Ray O’Neil says. “People recognize that if they steal cacti from Saguaro National Park there’s a chance we’re going to be able to identify that the cactus came from our park.”
It’s not a problem that happens everyday, but it’s still an ongoing problem, O’Neil says. Parks aren’t being stripped clean, but it’s enough that the parks are still being damaged. Photography is one way of seeing that the major sight-seeing attractions of the parks are still going untouched.
TED SIMONS: THANK YOU. NATIONAL PARKS ARE CREATED TO PRESERVE LAND, BUT PARKS ARE HAVING ISSUES WITH THEFT.
REPORTER: THE SAGUAROS CAN BE TALL. IT MAKES YOU FEEL TALL.
SOT: WE TOOK A PICTURE WITH BOTH OF US. IT WAS MASSIVE.
SOT: CACTI ARE THE MAIN ATTRACTION.
SOT: YOU FEEL PART OF THE DESERT, SURROUNDED BY THESE BEAUTIFUL CACTUS.
REPORTER: THE PARK'S NAMESAKE CACTUS IS FACING A THREAT FROM THIEVES.
SOT: IT'S IRONIC THAT WE SET ASIDE A PARK AND PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN JUST TAKE CACTUS FOR WHICHH THE PARK IS NAMED.
SOT: IT'S AN ONGOING PROBLEM.
REPORTER: WHILE THE PARK DOESN'T HAVE SPECIFIC NUMBERS ON THE AMOUNT OF CACTI THAT'S DISAPPEARED, THEY KNOW IT'S HAPPENING BECAUSE THEY FIND AREAS CACTUS USED TO STAND. BEING A CACTUS THIEF CAN BE LUCRATIVE, EACH ONE $100 OR MORE PER FOOT.
SOT: IT'S ROBBERY AND CRIMINAL ACTIVITY FOR PROFIT. A MATURE SAGUAROS ON THE LANDSCAPE ADDS TO THE SALE OR RENT.
REPORTER: THERE IS CONCERN THAT THE ROLLING HILLS HERE COULD FOREVER CHANGE.
SOT: IT'S A SLIPPERY SLOPE. I HAVE BEEN TO PLACES THAT THERE ARE NO CACTUSES THERE.
SOT: THE PARK SERVICE HAS TURNED TO TECHNOLOGY, PUTTING TRACKERS IN THE CACTI, ALLOWING THEM TO IDENTIFY ONE STOLEN FROM THE PARK. OF THE 1.9 MILLION, THERE ARE THOSE EASILY ACCESSIBLE AND EASILY TRACKED. IF A CACTUS GOES MISSING THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW IF IT'S FROM THE PARK IS TO SCAN IT USING A READER.
SOT: OUR BIGGEST HOPE IS THAT IT'S A DETERRENT, THAT THERE IS A CHANCE WE'LL BE ABLE TO IDENTIFY THAT THE CACTUS CAME FROM THE PARK.
SOT: ACROSS THE COUNTRY, OTHER PARKS FACE THE SAME THREAT. AT JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, THERE WERE TREES STOLEN FROM THE MINES AND THE AREA IN SOUTH DAKOTA WAS STOLEN TO EXTINCTION.
REPORTER: SOME PEOPLE TAKE PLANTS AND ANIMALS. IN MOUNT RUSHMORE, PEOPLE TAKE THE PEBBLES.
SOT: AT ONE POINT THE PARK ESTIMATED 12 TIMES THAT PETRIFIED WOOD WENT MISSING EVERY YEAR. NOW THEY SAY THE PROBLEM ISN'T AS BAD AS FIRST THOUGHT.
REPORTER: THE RESOURCES ARE IN GOOD SHAPE. SOME PEOPLE TAKE WOOD, AND WE GIVE THEM TICKETS, BUT WHOLE AREAS ARE NOT BEING STRIPPED CLEAN AS THOUGHT IN THE PAST.
SOT: THEY TOOK CENTURY OLD PHOTOGRAPHS AND RECREATED THEM. THE RESULTS, MOST OF THE ARTIFACTS ARE STILL INTACT.
SOT: ONE THING THE PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT HAS SHOWN US, MOST PEOPLE DO THE RIGHT THING.
REPORTERWHILE TECHNOLOGY TRACKS NATURAL RESOURCES, EDUCATION IS A HUGE PART OF KEEPING PARKS PRISTINE TO BE SURE NATIONAL PARKS ARE BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE.
SOT: IT'S SELFISH, AND IT'S AN ACT AGAINST THE AMERICAN PUBLIC.
REPORTER: PIECES OF AMERICAN HISTORY TAKEN FROM AMERICA'S MOST TREASURED LAND.
TED SIMONS: PARK RANGERS SAY THEY SPENT $3,000 TO SHIP 1,000 SAGUAROS. TRANSPLANTED SAGUAROS CAN DIE WITHIN A FEW YEARS. THURSDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON, CONGRESSMAN RAUL GRIJALVA WILL JOIN US IN STUDIO. AND AN ON-ON-ONE INTERVIEW WITH LUIS GONZALES AS THE DIAMONDBACKS REGULAR SEASON BEGINS. THAT'S THURSDAY, RIGHT HERE ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.
Jean Gascho: Saguaro National Park Visitor
Kevin Dahl: National Parks Conservation Association
Ray O’Neil: Chief Ranger, Saguaro National Park
Bill Parker: Chief of Resource Management, Petrified Forest National Park