Russian olive removal continues along rivers and creeks
James Nielsen of the Emery County Weed and Mosquito Department gave a January tour down Cottonwood Creek in the breaks East of Castle Dale on the Clyde Magnuson property. The tour extended to the Ferron Creek East of Ferron. The tour was to acquaint the public with how well the Russian Olive Tree removal project is advancing in the Emery County watershed areas. Emery County and the State of Utah have declared Russian Olives to be an invasive species and should be killed or removed. It is believed that the Russian Olives were introduced into the West originally to be used as feed for deer, birds, and small animals and to prevent erosion.
James said that when he was in grade school and in the 4-H, "I helped plant bare root Russian Olive trees that were given out by the Forest Ranger in Ferron. He gave us bundles of 50 to plant. Bears, deer, squirrels, pheasants, turkeys, magpies, crows, robins and almost all birds eat Russian Olives. Most do not digest or dissolve the pit. They just scatter the pits or seeds. On the South Salt Wash, a lone 30 year old Russian Olive tree was found. When the trees were first brought in from Russia they said they were good for wildlife, but did not know that the trees were a take over type tree that crowded out the native vegetation." The oldest Russian Olive tree that James found by dating the tree rings was found on the Fish and Game Farm on Huntington Creek.
In Emery County along the creeks the Russian Olive Trees are so thick that it is difficult to walk through them. The Russian Olive Trees both young and old have very sharp-pronged stickers that are two to three inches long. It has been reported that the smell of the Russian Olive Tree blossoms are very pleasant in the spring to some people. A Russian Olive Tree can easily shed thousands of small marble sized green seeds resembling an olive each year. Russian Olive seeds are carried by the birds, animals and water to other locations for propagation. These trees can reproduce from the olive seed or from suckers growing up from the roots. These trees can grow in barren and nutrient-poor locations and take over the moist soil along stream banks stopping trees like the cottonwood from putting up new growth.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has given Emery County Weed and Mosquito Department $70,000 in the form of a grant to use for Russian Olive Tree removal. That money has been divided between four watershed drainage areas. The four drainages are Huntington Creek, Cottonwood Creek, Ferron Creek and the Muddy Creek. A small part of the grant money will be used to purchase chemicals for later follow up treatment to kill any re-growth after the tree removal. A year ago a grant of $35,000 was received for Russian Olive removal and spent on the San Rafael River from Fuller Bottoms to the confluence with Ferron Creek.
The grants from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food are authorized under the Invasive Species Mitigation Regulation. Another grant will be applied for this year to continue this work. One and a half million dollars has been appropriated for projects state wide that fit the Invasive Species category.
At irrigation company meetings Nielsen notified the farmers and ranchers that money was available for the removal of Russian Olives. Several farmers and ranchers responded that they would be interested in helping remove Russian Olives to make the land more usable.
Nielson said, "Our intent is to remove the Russian Olives off of the main streams in Emery Counties flood plain. That will stop the seeds from going on down the San Rafael River where they could sprout and grow anew. We have removed Russian Olives from Fuller Bottoms down to the road that goes to Hanksville. Other agencies are working on Russian Olives on the San Rafael River in the Hatt Ranch area. We now have 120 miles of river that is Russian Olive free. This summer we plan to go down the San Rafael River from the road that goes to Hanksville to the confluence with the Green River and work there with our regular summer crew. Last year we hired a group from the Castle Country Youth Corp out of Monticello Utah. They did a section on the Ferron Creek for us. They used chain saws to cut the trees and used chemicals to treat the stumps."
In Emery County, Clyde Magnuson is using a track mounted backhoe and a Caterpillar bulldozer to remove Russian Olives from his land along Cottonwood Creek. The track hoe works best along the creek bank where the bulldozer can't work. The track hoe pulls the trees and roots out of the ground, while the blade of the Caterpillar bull dozer on this winters frozen ground slices the trees off level with the ground. The Russian Olives trees are then bull dozed into large piles of debris to dry out during the summer months and will later be burned, when there is snow on the ground this fall. Hundreds of piles of dead Russian Olive Trees can be seen along Cottonwood Creek and Ferron Creek. Here and there cottonwood trees that were saved can be seen. Before this project started it was difficult to find or get to the creek through the Russian Olives.
The goal is to remove the Russian Olives on all of the main streams in the flood plain that flows into the San Rafael River.
The Jorgensen Ranch property located farther down the creek from the Magnuson's property has also started removing Russian Olives from their Cottonwood Creek land.
At Ferron Creek, the Ferron Irrigation Company is using a track hoe to remove Russian Olive trees. They have attacked the areas where the Russian Olives were the thickest. Many more cottonwood trees are visible after the Russian Olive trees have been removed. A herd of 30 or 40 deer have moved into the meadows where the Russian Olives have been removed along the creek. The deer have been observed eating the olives off of the piles of removed trees.
The Muddy Creek Russian Olive removal project is being worked on by the Castle Valley Ranch.
Nielsen said the Russian Olive trees will grow up under a Cottonwood tree, but a Cottonwood tree will not grow up under Russian Olive trees.
In the History of Emery County it is reported that when the Gunnison survey crew came through the area they mentioned how the valley, along the creek we call Cottonwood Creek, opened up into big meadows full of cottonwoods. Today the creek would have to be named Russian Olive Creek. The Russian Olive trees have choked out a lot of native vegetation and all but a few Cottonwood trees.
Nielsen explained from Clyde Magnuson he learned that part of the Old Spanish Trail crossed Cottonwood Creek a mile or two East of Castle Dale's present location.
We are reclaiming our land, we are fighting back, getting rid of our Russian Olives and hopefully the land will return to the native vegetation. This invasive plant is not what they thought it would be when it was first brought here. It is good for wildlife in the sense that it provides food, but it doesn't stabilize the creek banks as originally thought.
Nielsen stated, When the Emery County Commission put Russian Olives on the Noxious Weed List they decided that if a resident has a Russian Olive tree on their property and wanted to manage it they can continue to do so. The county will not do anything about that tree. The Russian Olive tree has done untold damage to the county and it will take hundreds of thousands of dollars to get rid of them.