Colorado Headwaters Invasives Project

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Tamarisk is an aggressive invasive plant species that infests 1.6 million acres in 17 western states, Canada, and Mexico. Tamarisk has been found to alter ecosystem structure and function in a number of published studies. There is no doubt that tamarisk causes major problems. Until relatively recently, the technology to control tamarisk in a cost-effective manner was not available. However, there are now herbicides that have been shown to be highly effective on tamarisk plants. In addition, biocontrol insects show great promise for controlling tamarisk and will likely be available in the next few years for release. There is some evidence that tamarisk consumes more water than the native plants it replaces. The prospect of “saving” water by killing tamarisk plants in the western US has prompted western congressmen to introduce federal legislation that would provide federal dollars for tamarisk and Russian olive control.

S. 177 and H.R. 2720 (Salt Cedar and Russian Olive Control Act of 2005) were introduced by Senator Domenici, NM, and Representative Pierce, NM, respectively. Colorado Senators Allard and Salazar and Representatives Salazar and Udall are co-sponsors. The bills have identical language and specify demonstration projects at $15 M per year for 5 years at 75% federal match with $5 M for inventory research. Both bills have passed committee.

The prospect of federal funds for tamarisk control prompted the Tamarisk Coalition, based in Grant Junction, to speak with numerous organizations and individuals to determine if there is an interest in a Colorado River Headwaters partnership to promote riparian health. The Colorado River Headwaters area extends west from the Continental Divide to Palisade. Alan Carpenter attended the meeting to represent CRA. The Tamarisk Coalition is a non-profit group whose mission is to provide education, technical assistance, and coordination support to restore riparian lands to healthy conditions. The Coalition is an advocate for tamarisk control and revegation and wide variety of local, county, state, federal, non-profit, and private individual partners that conduct tamarisk and Russian olive control.

Tim Carlson, Executive Director of the Coalition, asked a number of groups, including the Colorado Riparian Association, if they would send a representative to a meeting on October 7 in Glenwood Springs, to discuss this matter. More specifically, the primary motivation for the meeting was to make preparations for the grants pursuant to the impending federal legislation. Those groups that have done preliminary planning are in the best position to receive funding. Three criteria specified in the bill for federal funding are 1) a state-wide strategy focusing on a watershed approach; 2) comprehensive local plans; and 3) broad based partnerships to achieve cooperative conservation.

The Tamarisk Coalition received a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to map tamarisk infestations. Nate Ament of the Coalition explained the mapping approach that used available aerial photography for mapping and field checks using global positioning systems (GPS) units. At the time of the meeting, 600 linear miles of the main stem Arkansas and Colorado Rivers have been mapped, including the Colorado River Headwaters area.

There was much discussion of a number of topics, including how to organize this effort and who was willing and able to lead the project. The persons present agreed to move forward with the project.