A private golf course in Marana is under investigation by the Arizona Department of Agriculture for chopping down two saguaro cactuses to make room for hospitality tents for the upcoming LIV Tournament.
In February, a video surfaced of a landscaping company cutting down two mature saguaro cactuses on The Gallery Golf Club’s property, which incited outrage within the community and questioning by the state agriculture department.
The Gallery Golf Club claims the removal was a mistake by the landscaping company, Santa Rita Landscaping, which did not ask for permission from management, according to The Gallery Club General Manager Jeremy Duda.
Saguaros, which can reach up to 50 feet, are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert and have an average lifespan of 150 to 175 years. They are well-known and recognized in Arizona and are one of many protected plants under Arizona’s native plant law.
Under this law, landowners have the right to destroy or remove protected native plants growing on their land, but 20 to 60 days prior to the destruction, they are required to notify the AZDA. They must also obtain permits from the AZDA during this notification process.
That’s what The Gallery Golf Club and their landscaping company failed to do before removing the two saguaros to make room for temporary hospitality tents arriving for the LIV Golf Invitational Tournament.
“The AZDA did not identify records of a permit or notice of intent for The Gallery Golf Club to cut down the two saguaros, and we are currently conducting an investigation related to this action,” said Heather Flowers, assistant director of Strategic Initiatives and Policy at the AZDA.
According to state law, removing a saguaro, or any native plant, without obtaining the proper permit from the AZDA is a class one misdemeanor, punishable by a civil penalty in an amount no more than $5,000.
“We were under the impression that they were going to be relocated,” Duda said, regarding what the landscaping company said to management. “That’s what we were told, and they ended up chopping them down without our permission.”
Relocation of saguaros on the same property does not require a permit, according to AZDA.
Duda said The Gallery Golf Club is fully cooperating with the AZDA’s investigation and they plan to replace the saguaros once the tournament is over.
Reach breaking news reporter Ellie Willard at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EllieWillardAZ.