New Partnership Addresses Woody Invasives in the San Juan Watershed

On October 11, 2006, President Bush signed into law H.R. 2720, the "Salt Cedar and Russian Olive Control Demonstration Act," which directs the Department of the Interior to carry out an assessment and demonstration program to control the spread of salt cedar and Russian olive trees in the western United States. Tamarisks, or salt cedars, are a growing threat to water supplies, channel capacity and plant diversity. The prolific salt cedars are the most widespread species in Colorado and they aggressively choke out all other forms of vegetation. When water is available, a mature tree can use 200 gallons per day and produce 2.5 million seeds. Removing tamarisks is estimated to recover millions of acre-feet annually.

Local leaders wasted no time and formed the San Juan Watershed Woody-Invasives Initiative soon after to address tamarisk and Russian olive invasions and riparian restoration.  A unique partnership, consisting of over 60 entities from four states and four tribes, the group’s mission is “to plan for and implement comprehensive and culturally-sensitive restoration of riparian communities, to eradicate woody invasive species in the San Juan Basin, and to provide coordination, resources, and technical assistance.”

With over 2,800 linear miles and 250,000 acres affected in the region, the Initiative had an aggressive strategic plan that includes guidelines for management, mechanisms for coordination, specific implementation parameters, and the use of GIS technology to inventory, map, and plan basin-wide.  See the strategic and implementation plans at www.southwestcoloradowetlands.org (click on Tamarisk and Russian olive).  Dr. Catherine Ortega is coordinating the Initiative and can be reached at San Juan Institute of Natural and Cultural Resources Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO 81301, [email protected], 970-247-7393.

For additional information, visit the Tamarisk Coalition.