Delta County Conservation District and the Western Colorado Conservation Corps have joined forces to eliminate tamarisk, Russian olive, Siberian Elm and other noxious weeds from properties adjacent to the North Fork River. Property owners from the Paonia Reservoir on down are being encouraged to take advantage of this free program.
Dev Carey of Delta County Conservation District said funding for the project, which is continuing into 2013, came from three grants from the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
Matching funds for the grant money have been given by the Delta County Conservation District, The Conservation Center and a private landowner.
Removal of the trees and noxious weeds has been an ongoing project since August. The trees are cut and ground and the stumps sprayed with herbicide so that they won't return.
The conservation district and the corps, along with The Conservation Center, have been working between Hotchkiss and Paonia, at the Paonia River Park, the Curry Easement and with private landowners. "The district would like more private landowners to become involved especially between the Paonia Reservoir and Paonia," Carey said.
Western Colorado Conservation Corps has brought in its hydro ax for larger trees. For smaller trees crews cut by hand or use chain saws.
"The benefits of getting rid of these noxious varieties begin with the fact that those species are crowding out native trees like willows and cottonwoods which provide habitat for birds and wildlife. The North Fork has become a seed source for transporting their seeds down river and infecting other areas along the Gunnison River. The seeds are entering irrigation ditches as well," Carey said. "Millions of dollars have been spent trying to remove tamarisk. One group, Tamarisk Coalition, works tirelessly on removing them and restoring areas where nothing else can live."
Western Colorado Conservation Corps was formed 12 years ago by Partners in Grand Junction. They serve youth ages 16 to 25 who learn an environmental education through volunteering. They earn Americorps Awards, which are scholarships for higher education. Eric Hughes of the corps said volunteers are being sought for crews throughout Delta County.
"Right now we have over 25 BLM interns," Hughes said. Some have worked with wildland fire fighting and other full-time positions with BLM.
The Corps has had crews of four and eight who have camped in the North Fork and removed tamarisk and Russian olive. Next year, volunteers will return for a second spraying. Their hydro ax is used to mulch anything six to eight inches in diameter.
Ralph D'Alessandro of the Delta County conservation District said the Corps crews have cleared almost 200 acres along the North Fork River.
Devon Van Dusen and George Hall who own the former Bruce homestead were among first landowners that the Corps crew worked with. They cleared about 35 acres of invasive species.
The Corps crew then went on the other side of the river and cleared tamarisk and Russian olive from the Miguel Velez property which is directly east of the Hall and Van Dusen property. Other property owners also signed on to have their property cleared.
"We have a nice block cleared out on both sides of the river," D'Alessandro said.
"George, my husband, and I have been battling the Russian olive for years trying to get them cut and put herbicide on them," Van Dusen said. "Our techniques have not been working very well." So, they contacted the Corps and shared their frustration. "It used to be a wonderful cottonwood meadow down there. We had a lot of elk habitat and a lot more wildlife in there. It's gotten so dense and thick with Russian olive the cottonwoods were dying and it was so thick the herds were not coming through in the winter," she said. "We always used to have a great horned owl nest down there . . . They can't fly and swoop and hunt because it's so thick in there."
The experience has been so positive, the couple recommend others to take advantage of the program.
Future removals are planned on property by the Red Arms Motel and also at the Farnsworth gravel pit on both sides of the river.
"We're glad to be doing this because we want to be addressing the invasive woody species along the river," D'Alessandro said. "Also, with the funds we are able to help youth. We are hiring the youth in the Western Colorado Conservation Corps."
Property owners along the North Fork River are encouraged to call the Delta County Conservation District at 874-5726 extension 121 to have tamarisk and Russian olive removed next spring. There will also be upcoming educational opportunities. The program is free to property owners.blog comments powered by Disqus