Leveraging Invasive Phreatophyte Control Program Funds on the Dolores River

November 19th, 2014
Since 2009, the Dolores River Restoration Partnership (DRRP), a public-private collaborative, has been working to restore nearly 200 miles of the riparian corridor of the Dolores River and several of its tributaries to a more naturally functioning, resilient state. With funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Invasive Phreatophyte Control Program (IPCP), the DRRP has been able to build substantially on previous years’ efforts to work towards the partnership’s shared ecological, social, and economic goals.
Near the town of Bedrock, CO, the DRRP is implementing a unique site-based approach to tamarisk control on public lands.  Based on a set of pilot projects, this restoration project incorporates the presence of the tamarisk leaf-beetle (a tamarisk biological control agent) with a selective, mosaic approach to cutting tamarisk. Retaining significant canopy structure, observations from the partnership’s pilot project have suggested, reduces evapotranspiration relative to wholesale treatments and provides a more hospitable climate for active revegetation in this particular type of arid site. This method also creates corridors to access and treat the robust communities of secondary weeds (e.g. Russian knapweed) as well as to plant the opened areas with native grasses and shrubs. IPCP funding has supported hiring and training young adults through the Western Colorado Conservation Corps to treat tamarisk at the Bedrock site using this new mosaic approach as well as hiring local contractors to treat Russian knapweed via the corridors created by the Conservation Corps crews.
Downstream from Bedrock, IPCP funding has supported another large-scale restoration project on public lands south of the boundary of Mesa and Montrose Counties. There, local contractors were hired to treat dense stands of tamarisk with an excavator and later to control Russian knapweed. A microcosm of the larger partnership, this restoration project is part of a reach of the river that is checker-boarded by public and private lands.  IPCP funding has been bolstered by other grants targeted on adjacent private lands to support a holistic approach towards restoration, unencumbered by administrative boundaries.
In addition to supporting on-the-ground restoration work, the IPCP funding has also supported monitoring and evaluation of restoration efforts across the watershed. During summer 2014, two interns hired by Southwest Conservation Corps evaluated past restoration efforts across four counties and two states!
To learn more about the DRRP, please visit http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/drrp/default.htm.

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