by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- Private Lands Wildlife Biologist Patty Knupp has begun making preliminary contacts to gather data and determine landowner interest in a tamarisk treatment program in the Huerfano River watershed this summer. The area would include the riparian corridors of the Huerfano and Cucharas rivers. Knupp told the World Journal that several grant sources will be sought to help fund the program, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, a new Farm Bill program. “It’s all about partners,” she said. Knupp said the Upper Huerfano Conservation District (UHCD) would be instrumental in applying to CPPI to name the Huerfano River watershed a priority area. CPPI, which is funded by using about 6% of the budgets of three separate federal agriculture programs, has yet to be announced for 2010. Knupp’s biologist position is a joint effort of the Division of Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The plan is for the project to reimburse landowners for 75% of the cost of the treatment on their property. “Some of the larger infestations will need to be sprayed by helicopter,” Knupp said. “Smaller stands will have to be treated mechanically.” She said tamarisk beetles were released in Huerfano County last year in cooperation with UHCD, and some defoliation was noticed, but it takes a while for the beetles to get firmly established in an area. Another tamarisk beetle release in Huerfano County is planned for late July and August. Aerial spraying would begin in August.
In similar projects in the Southwest, there are reports of increased stream flows after tamarisk trees are removed from riparian areas. Each tree has the potential to consume up to 200 gallons of water each day. Tamarisks, an invasive species, also make the soil around them hostile to other vegetation, including native trees like cottonwood. As the UHCD Board discussed at its March 18 meeting, the ideal scenario for the project would be to get landowner participation along the entire reach of both rivers. If one person treats their infestation and their neighbor does not, the program would be less effective.
Knupp has worked on similar projects in Pueblo, Otero and Las Animas Counties over the past three years, treating about 1,000 acres on the Apishapa River. Knupp said, “The landowners say they are seeing some native vegetation coming back in. And they say they are seeing more water, mostly in pooled areas.”
If you are interested in participating in the tamarisk treatment program, contact Tony Arnhold, NRCS, at (719)738-1171.