Trash trees beware: Project wipes out Russian olives along San Rafael
As one of the stewards of our unique Emery County lands, the Emery County Weed Department has completed another milestone project to help preserve and restore the ecology of the San Rafael river. James Nielsen, weed department manager said, "Our water ways are always some of the most productive and important parts of the geography of an area and especially arid areas such as Emery County.
"The San Rafael river system is a very prominent and important geographical feature of Emery County, almost splitting the county in half diagonally from the Northwest corner to the Southeast corner and transverses some of the most wild and scenic areas in the West. It has also been said that it is the only river in the state that begins and ends in the same county.
"There is probably not a river or drainage in the Emery County that is not heavily impacted with non-native invasive plants which threaten and endanger their entire corridor. These weeds grow quickly and spread profusely. Two of these plants, tamarisk and Russian olive, have been the focus of attention in recent environmental restoration efforts such as, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources San Rafael River Restoration Project and the Boy Scouts of America Buckhorn Draw tamerisk removal project.
"In an ongoing effort, to preserve and protect our natural resources the county has been involved in these and others projects, the latest of which occurred this past summer when Federal Economic Stimulus Funds became available through the Price office of the Bureau of Land Management. With this funding, Emery County was able to hire a temporary crew, equipment and animals to work on a very hard to access 21 mile stretch of the river, from the Swinging Bridge to Fuller Bottom. This deep canyon, up to 1,000 feet, contains many hazards including steep banks, quicksand, deep water and can only be accessed from the top or bottom of this stretch of river. Because of these challenges, the county was fortunate to hire a man who knows the river as well as anyone.
"Lee Jeffs has spent a life time on this part of the river. Because of his familiarity of the area, the project of removing all the Russian olives was able to be completed. Daily access for control was done by horseback and pack horses. Each area was traversed numerous times. Trees were cut and the stumps were treated and flagged.
"It is felt that there was close to 100 percent removal of Russian olives. This is a notable achievement to preserve this unique stretch from the devastating encroachment of Russian olives. It should also be noted that by the end of September 2010 tamerisk eating beetles had migrated the full length of the San Rafael River from its confluence with the Green River up to the Castle Dale sewer lagoon, many areas showing total brown-out, indicating zero seed production and heavy damage to the parent plant. Quality control follow up inspections will be scheduled this spring and then periodically to remove any sprouted seedlings. It is our hope that some day, the San Rafael River will be a Russian olive free river.
"We encourage all land owners to help prevent the spread of Russian olives by controlling them on their own property," said Nielsen.
For those who would like further information on Russian olive control methods, contact your local county agent at 381-2381 or the county weed control department at 381-2933.