A 30-foot Scratchers ticket reveals a $40,000 Gives Back Sponsorship for Save Our Saguaros, a National Forest Foundation effort to protect Arizona’s Sonoran Desert
PHOENIX, Ariz. (Feb. 14, 2022) – The Arizona Lottery marked its 40th Anniversary today, during Arizona’s 110th birthday and “Statehood Day,” by scratching off a giant 30-foot Scratchers® ticket in downtown Phoenix. Once scratched, the ticket revealed a $40,000 Gives Back Sponsorship to “Save Our Saguaros,” a National Forest Foundation (NFF) effort to mitigate wildfire threats across Arizona’s national forests and to ensure the future of this iconic desert species.
Governor Doug Ducey congratulated the Arizona Lottery, stating that 40 years of ticket sales have translated to a big win for Arizona.
“On this day that we celebrate our 110th year as a state, we also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lottery in Arizona,” said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. “Over the past four decades, the Arizona Lottery has paid nearly $10.5 billion in prizes to players and more than $1.1 billion to retailers in commissions. More importantly, the Arizona Lottery has returned over $4.8 billion to many vital state programs and services that would otherwise rely on tax dollars for their funding. Happy birthday, Arizona Lottery!”
Celebrating 40 Years of Giving Back
Arizona Lottery Executive Director Gregg Edgar said the Arizona Lottery has made an enormous financial contribution over four decades to the state for programs in environmental conservation, higher education, health and human services, and economic and business development.
“We’re celebrating 40 years of giving back to the community, and we’re proud to have transferred more than $4.8 billion, through ticket sales, to vital programs and services throughout the state,” Edgar said. “Our “Gives Back” sponsorships, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, are funded with Arizona Lottery marketing dollars. These unique partnerships help nonprofits across Arizona accomplish their missions while helping the Arizona Lottery to tell its story.”
Measuring 30 feet high, 15 feet wide, and 6 feet deep, the Arizona Lottery’s giant Scratchers ticket was built over several hours on Friday, Feb. 11 in the Legends Entertainment District next to the Footprint Arena, where the Phoenix Suns play. (See a time lapse video here). Throughout the weekend, players 21 and older scanned a QR code on the bottom of the ticket into the Arizona Lottery’s Players Club, where they entered the 40th Anniversary drawing for a chance to win one of forty (40) $400 dollar e-gift cards. During a special event this morning, emcee Gayle Bass, broadcast journalist and host of the nationally-syndicated television show Right This Minute, ascended some 15 feet in a scissor lift, wielding a frisbee-sized coin to help her scratch off a section of the ticket for the big reveal.
“We designed our giant Scratchers ticket to be educational, interactive and fun, and our big reveal this morning to the National Forest Foundation’s effort, Save Our Saguaros, in many ways symbolizes the Arizona Lottery’s giant commitment to preserving a vital part of our state’s future. Many people don’t realize that the saguaro is a keystone species. Widespread loss of saguaros would be devastating to our desert ecosystem,” Edgar said.
The Arizona Lottery is also celebrating Player Appreciation Day on Friday, February 18. Anyone, 21 years or older, who comes to an Arizona Lottery office can get a free coupon that they can redeem on their next visit.
How the NFF is Saving Saguaros
As the largest cactus in the United States, the saguaro is distinctive across the Sonoran Desert, often standing more than 40 feet tall, with branches, or “arms” that represent decades of growth. Saguaros, and their fruit-bearing blossoms are also Arizona’s official state flower. The Saguaro is unique to Arizona and across the Sonoran Desert and is truly a universal symbol of the American Southwest.
Unnatural wildfire and fire-prone invasive grasses are threatening these desert giants, which is a key reason the Arizona Lottery chose to support the NFF’s “Save Our Saguaros” effort with a Gives Back Sponsorship. The funds will benefit conservation work on the Tonto National Forest in central Arizona and in southern Arizona’s Coronado National Forest. Both habitats are part of the scenic Sonoran Desert.
Rebecca Davidson, the National Forest Foundation’s Southwest Regional Director, was at the Arizona Lottery event this morning to witness the big reveal of the $40,000 Gives Back Sponsorship to the NFF’s “Save Our Saguaros” effort.
“The saguaro cactus has evolved to thrive in the harsh and arid Sonoran Desert, and it can continue to survive, even in times of drought” Davidson said. “But with the rapid expansion of nonnative grasses, like buffelgrass and fountain grass, saguaros and Arizona’s desert landscapes are at threat.”
Davidson explained how Arizona Lottery funds will support the NFF’s “Save Our Saguaros” effort.
“Invasive grasses fueled the June 2020 Bush Fire on the Tonto National Forest, which burned an approximate194,000 acres into the Four Peaks Wilderness Area, impacting more than
80,000 iconic saguaros. Working with the Forest Service and other community partners, Arizona Lottery funds will help us establish a cacti and saguaro nursery so we can replant and restore portions of the scarred habitat,” she said.
Arizona Lottery funds will also catalyze NFF’s “Save Our Saguaros” effort on the Coronado National Forest which focuses on management and treatment of invasive grasses across hundreds of acres of Sonoran Desert habitat in the Tucson area.
“Through continued treatment we are hoping to avoid ignition of buffelgrass-fueled fires, which can carry fire swiftly, scorching plants and soils, ultimately converting a rich desert ecosystem into a monoculture of buffelgrass in a very short time,” she said. “When lightning sparked the Bighorn Fire in June 2020, it quickly burned over 120,000 acres of Sonoran Desert in the Santa Catalina Mountains, and the Tucson community was devastated. Luckily, no harm came to people and homes and structures were protected, but it was a wakeup call to the immediacy of treatment need on national forests and in adjacent neighborhoods.”
Davidson said that while treatment reduces threats on some acres, it is expensive work, and land managers require additional partners and resources to manage and eliminate the invasive species.
“Truly, time is of the essence to protect our iconic saguaro cacti. Together with the Forest Service, we’re working to raise awareness about the importance of these issues, and get acres treated and cacti reestablished, and that’s why we’re so grateful for the support of organizations like the Arizona Lottery and our other community partners,” she said.
For more details about the Arizona Lottery, visit ArizonaLottery.com.
For details about the National Forest Foundation’s “Save Our Saguaros” project, visit nationalforests.org/SaveOurSaguaros.
Scratchers® is a registered service mark of the California Lottery.
About National Forest Foundation
The National Forest Foundation works on behalf of the American public to inspire personal and meaningful connections to our National Forests. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF leads forest conservation efforts and promotes responsible recreation. Each year the NFF restores fish and wildlife habitat, facilitates common ground, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, and improves recreational opportunities. The NFF believes our National Forests and all they offer are an American treasure and are vital to the health of our communities. Learn more at nationalforests.org.