State: Tucson-area golf course chopped down two saguaros without proper permit

The Gallery Golf Club said it initially planned to move cacti, but they were found to be unstable
People are expressing outrage after two saguaro cacti were cut down at The Gallery Golf Club to build a temporary platform for the upcoming LIV event.
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:23 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2023 at 8:20 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - People are expressing outrage after two saguaro cacti were cut down at The Gallery Golf Club to build a temporary platform for the upcoming LIV Golf Invitational.

Club members told 13 News they want those behind that decision held accountable.

According to state law, removing a saguaro, or any native plant, without obtaining the proper permit is a class one misdemeanor.

Jerry Parker, a part-time Marana resident, said it’s unacceptable.

“It’s illegal. It’s illegal. Somebody broke the law,” he said.

It was a short-term decision with long-term impacts.

“It just makes no logical sense to me,” Parker said. “I am appalled.”.

The Arizona Department of Agriculture said a permit was not issued to The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain. The licensing department said they did not receive any notice of intent associated with the removal of the cacti.

Parker said he saw the iconic saguaros taken down firsthand.

“I was just taken back, I couldn’t believe It happened,” he said.

Shocking him enough, that he stepped back and pressed record on his cell phone, documenting the event and later showing friends and community members the chainsaw slashing into one of the cacti.

A landscaping crew threw the remains into a nearby dumpster.

The video is upsetting neighbors in the community.

“To see them cut down for a basically three-day golf tournament and those guys after three days are going to pack up their things and be gone and these saguaros will be in a dumpster somewhere,” said Michael Smith. “I didn’t like that and I hope the people in this community don’t put up with it.”

Parker said he was not putting up with it, and he tried to talk to the landscapers while it was happening. He asked why they couldn’t move the platform or leave the saguaros where they were.

“There was no sense talking to the workers, they were trying to avoid me for sure, but it wasn’t the workers. They were doing the job that someone told them to do. So the question is who and why,” Parker said.

So we asked the Gallery Golf Club who made that call and why they did it.

In a statement they said:

“Our maintenance practices are designed to protect the natural beauty of our desert landscape. In this instance, despite an original plan to safely relocate two Saguaros on our property, it was determined that they were unstable, which led to the decision to remove them. Along with the community and our Membership, we will always be committed to protecting our beautiful environment.”

Despite that statement, residents said those saguaros are what makes Arizona so special.

“People come here from all over the world, not for the 110-degree heat that we get for two or three months of the year, but for really the beauty of the desert and the brand of that beauty is the saguaro,” Smith said.

The Arizona Department of Agriculture said the investigation is ongoing.

If you ever see anyone removing a native plant, you’re asked to call the Native Plant Enforcement division of the Department of Agriculture. The number is 602-364- 0907.

After numerous attempts to contact the landscaping company, Santa Rita Landscaping, we did not receive a comment or a response on this issue.